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Magnets in Consumer Electronics Can Interfere With Medical Devices

THURSDAY, Aug. 26, 2021 -- Some consumer electronic devices, such as the iPhone 12 and Apple Watch 6 models, create static magnetic fields that, when placed in close proximity, can interfere with the operation of implantable pacemakers and implantable cardioverter-defibrillators, according to a study published online Aug. 25 in Heart Rhythm.

Seth J. Seidman, from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in Silver Spring, Maryland, and colleagues made measurements for the iPhone 12 and Apple Watch 6 models at several planes to determine the separation distance for which the static magnetic fields of these consumer devices can trigger magnet mode in implantable pacemakers and implantable cardioverter-defibrillators.

The researchers found that the static magnetic fields of all iPhone 12 and Apple Watch 6 models tested were significantly greater than 10 G in close proximity (1 to 11 mm); between 11 and 20 mm, this was attenuated to less than 10 G.

"Because of these results, we are taking steps to provide information for patients and health care providers to ensure they are aware of potential risks and can take simple proactive and preventive measures like keeping consumer electronics, such as certain cell phones and smart watches, six inches away from implanted medical devices and not carrying consumer electronics in a pocket over the medical device," Seidman said in a statement. "We recommend people with implanted medical devices talk with their healthcare providers to ensure they understand this potential risk and the proper techniques for safe use."

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