Could magnets in the iPad TURN OFF heart implants? Study by 14-year-old science student warns of health risks
- Study finds tablet’s built-in magnets can accidentally turn off heart devices
- Warnings are being played down by manufacturers who claim there is ‘no risk’
A 14-year-old science student from California claims the second generation iPad is dangerous to people with heart devices.
Gianna Chien has written a study that found the second generation iPad can, in some cases, interfere with implanted defibrillators because of the magnets built into the tablet’s casing.
Her findings warn that if a person falls asleep with the second generation iPad on their chest, the magnets can ‘accidentally turn off’ the heart device, although the warnings are being played down by manufacturers.
Magnetic viewing film on the second generation iPad and its cover. The film reacts to magnets poles, revealing their location in this picture from ‘teardown’ site ifixit.com. The magnets inside the second generation iPad can, in some cases, interfere with heart devices and accidentally turn them off, according to a new study
HOW DO DEFIBRILLATORS WORK?
An implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) is a small battery-powered electrical impulse generator that is put into the chests of in patients who are at risk of heart attacks.
The device is designed to detect cardiac arrhythmia, also known as an irregular heartbeat, and correct the irregularity with a sudden electrical pulse.
ICDs are similar to pacemakers.
Both are fitted using wires that pass though a vein on the right chamber of the heart to the apex of the right ventricle.
Pacemakers are traditionally a temporary solution before ICDs can be fitted, or in patients with a lower risk of attack.
As a safety precaution, most implanted defibrillators, also known as ICDs, are designed to be turned off by magnets.
The second generation iPad has magnets built into its casing that are designed to hold a cover in place
While the second generation iPad magnets aren’t powerful enough to cause problems when a person is holding the tablet out in front of the chest, Chien’s study found it can be risky to rest it against the body.
Most implanted defibrillators will turn back on once the magnet is no longer affecting the device.
Some, however, remain off until the magnet is reapplied or the device is turned back on manually, according to Chien.
She said patients should be told about the risk and doctors should check the devices to see if they have been inadvertently turned off by magnets.
Chien, a high school freshman in Stockton, California, tested 19 volunteers who had heart devices fitted.
Of those 19 patients, 16 had ICDs, two had pacemakers, and one had a loop recorder fitted.
They were all asked to hold the second generation iPad at reading distance.
They were then told to mimic falling asleep with the second generation iPad resting on their chest.
The study found that ‘magnet mode’ – a mode which disables the heart device’s built-in defribillator – was triggered in 18.8 percent of patients who put the tablet on their chest.
No interference was recorded in the patients with pacemakers, or the loop recorder.
She was helped by her father Walter Chien, a cardiac electrophysiologist.
The claims have been played down by Medtronic, a leading manufacturer of defibrillators.
It said that its testing hasn’t found any risks from iPad technology when used according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
But the Minneapolis-based company does tell patients to avoid placing any magnets near the area where their devices are implanted.
Apple declined to comment on the study in an e-mail, referring questions about the the second generation iPad’s safety to its online product guide.
The guide cautions users about radio frequency interference, suggests that patients with pacemakers keep the iPad at least six inches away and says they should be turned off in health-care facilities when instructed by staff or posted signs.
Chien presented her findings to a review panel at the Heart Rhythm Society meeting in Denver.
John Day, head of heart-rhythm services at Intermountain Medical Center in Utah, and chairman of the panel said that the research offers a ‘valuable warning’ for people with implanted defibrillators.
‘Defibrillator patients can still buy Apple products,’ he said. “Just don’t put them on your chest.