August 01, 2021

Keep smartphones away from implantable heart devices

While many people still rely on cords to charge their cellphones, recent devices also offer wireless charging capabilities and can be charged when placed on top of a specialized pad or mat. This technology, which was expanded with the iPhone 12, creates opportunities for convenience. But it also requires internal parts that pose health risks for people who have implantable devices to treat certain heart conditions.

Researchers have found that the Apple iPhone 12, which was first sold in October 2020, can interfere with or prevent appropriate function of an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD). An ICD treats heart rhythm irregularities (arrythmias). In the January 2021 issue of Heart Rhythm, the researchers say that the new iPhone's larger internal magnets — which allow it to establish strong wireless charging connections — cause the higher risk of interference. The negative reactions happen most often when the phones are kept within 6 inches of the implanted devices for an extended time. Other devices, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines and some power tools, also have been associated with an increased risk of malfunction in ICDs.

Mayo Clinic experts say that the report reinforces the need to use electronic devices with caution around ICDs. Keep hand-held electronic devices a safe distance — 6 to 12 inches at minimum — from the chests of people with ICDs. Never store the device in a breast pocket. When holding the device, use the hand opposite the side of your body that contains the ICD. When lying down, store the device...