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Magnets in iPad2 May Alter Settings on Brain Shunt Devices: Study
Date:6/26/2012

By Maureen Salamon
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, June 26 (HealthDay News) -- Magnets embedded in the Apple iPad 2 can interfere with the settings of magnetically programmable shunt valves, which are critical devices to drain excess fluid from the brains of those with hydrocephalus and other conditions, a new study suggests.

Researchers from the University of Michigan decided to investigate the phenomenon after a 4-month-old patient with hydrocephalus was found to have a shunt malfunction three weeks after getting one implanted. The baby's mother had fed the child and used the iPad simultaneously, inadvertently placing the baby's head close to the tablet computer.

"Most times, technology has helped medical care significantly. This is one case . . . where we have to be concerned about these things," said Dr. Salvatore Insinga, a neurosurgeon at the Cushing Neuroscience Institute in Manhasset, N.Y., who was not involved in the study. "We do know programmable shunts are susceptible to magnetic field fluctuations -- MRIs, for instance, can change the settings of the shunts. [But] I don't think we know all of the devices that have a magnetic influence on these things."

The study is published online June 26 in advance of the August print issue of Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics.

Hydrocephaly, brain swelling caused by the build-up of cerebrospinal fluid, can occur in children and adults due to a variety of medical conditions. Medical-grade magnets are used to change the settings on programmable shunt valves that allow the passage of extra fluid to other parts of the body.

Study author Dr. Cormac Maher, a pediatric neurosurgeon at the University of Michigan, and his colleagues tested the iPad 2 with and without an Apple Smart Cover, which contains additional magnets and is the most frequently used cover for the tablet.

Exposing 10 programmable shunt valves to the iPad/cover for 10 seconds
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