Magnets in cellphones and smartwatches can interfere with pacemakers, according to the FDA.

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The Food and Drug Administration of the United States has issued an alert that heavy magnets in certain cellphones and smartwatches can interfere with pacemakers and other embedded medical devices.

According to research, these high-strength magnets can trigger certain implants to go into “magnet mode,” which prevents regular operation before the magnet is pushed away from the unit.

Many implants have a “magnet mode” that allows them to be handled safely during surgical procedures such as MRI scans. Usually, these features are activated by inserting a high-strength magnet near the implant. The removal of the magnetic field allows the medical system to resume normal function.

According to the FDA, patients who have electronic devices implanted should take the following precautions:

  • Keep cellphones and smartwatches six inches away from implanted medical devices, especially heart defibrillators. Do not carry these devices in a pocket over the medical implant.
  • Check your device using a home monitoring system, if you have one. Talk to your doctor if you are having any symptoms or have questions about magnets in consumer electronics and implanted medical devices.
  • When near high-strength magnets, devices with a magnetic safe mode could stop working or change how they work. For example, a heart defibrillator may not detect the rapid heart rate known as tachycardia. Or it may switch a pacemaker to asynchronous mode, blocking its sensing capabilities.
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Implanted implants are intended to help with heart function problems such as rapid or sluggish heart rhythms. The FDA cautioned in a press release that if the system ceases operating, a patient may get dizzy, lose consciousness, or even die.

The FDA did its own research on several devices that use the high field strength magnet feature and concluded that the risk to patients is limited. The department stated that it is not aware of any negative incidents related to this problem at this time.

More informationThe U.S. Food and Drug Administration has more about the safety of implanted medical devices.

SOURCE: U.S. Food and Drug Administration, news release, May 13, 2021Copyright © 2021 HealthDay. All rights reserved.


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