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iPads Could Affect Implanted Heart Devices, Early Study Finds
Date:5/9/2013

By Barbara Bronson Gray
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, May 9 (HealthDay News) -- Sprawled out on the couch, reading the news on your iPad, you'd never think you could be putting yourself at risk. But you might be, if you happen to have an implanted heart device.

Magnetic interference could alter the settings and even deactivate the technology of implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs), according to a small new study -- conducted by a 14-year-old investigator and her colleagues.

The researchers found that magnets imbedded in the iPad 2 and its Smart Cover may cause electromagnetic interference that can disrupt a cardiac rhythm device.

Specialized magnets are imbedded in the heart devices to allow physicians to routinely adjust their settings. The magnets can suspend the ability of the devices to prevent sudden rapid heart rates, such as tachycardia and fibrillation.

That risk occurs when a person falls asleep with the tablet on the chest. Thirty percent of study participants had interference with their devices when the iPad 2 was placed there, the researchers found. Yet electromagnetic interference was not found when the iPad was at a normal reading distance from the chest.

The magnetic field drops off quickly with distance, explained Gianna Chien, the lead study author. And heavier people who happen to have more fat on their chest -- not just in their abdomen -- also seem to be less sensitive to the interference, she added.

The research is scheduled to be presented Thursday at the Heart Rhythm Society's annual meeting in Denver. Chien, a high school freshman, worked with her father, Dr. Walter Chien, a cardiologist with Central Valley Arrhythmia in Stockton, Calif., to coordinate patient testing.

Other devices with imbedded magnets -- such as cellphones and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines -- may also affect cardiac rhythm devices, but were not tested in this study.
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