Apple Cautions iPhones May Interfere With Personal Medical Devices (Pacemakers, ICD)
Are you aware that your Cell phones could interfere with implanted medical devices in your body?
According to the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), radiofrequency energy from cell phones can interact with some personal medical devices such as pacemakers. The FDA helped develop a standard which cell phone manufacturers can follow to make the mobile devices less likely to interfere. Still, cardiologists such as Mark Krebs, MD, of Miami Valley Cardiologists, say patients should be aware of the risks and learn to be cautious when using mobile devices such as iPhone 12, and MagSafe accessories.
“Items usually have to have a strong magnetic field in order to interfere with pacemakers, and cell phones can pose that risk,” says Dr. Krebs, who practices with Premier Physician Network.
A close look at the findings reveals that mobile phones may adversely affect the functioning of medical devices, and the specific effect and the degree of interference depend on the applied technology and the separation distance
Apple recently included a warning in their support documents for the iPhone 12, cautioning users to keep the phone at least 6 inches away from medical devices, specifically implanted pacemakers and heart defibrillators. The new Apple iPhone 12 has reintroduced MagSafe magnets, which are built into the back of the device to attach accessories like magnetic cases or wireless chargers. MagSafe magnets were introduced in 2006 on the Mac computer, which allowed the power connector to magnetically attach. These were replaced with a USB-C connector in 2016 and reintroduced on the iPhone 12.
In late January 2021, Apple published a new support document cautioning these magnets, as well as the “radios that emit electromagnetic fields,” should be kept a “safe distance away from your device (more than 6 inches / 15 cm apart or more than 12 inches/ 30 cm apart if wirelessly charging). But consult with your physician and your device manufacturer for specific guidelines.”
The devices they refer to are “medical devices such as implanted pacemakers and defibrillator. A paper published in Heart Rhythm found the iPhone 12 could disrupt implanted defibrillator function. When brought near the implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) over the left chest, the researchers found the ICD immediately suspended action.
The researchers were able to reproduce the effect multiple times and warned that the iPhone 12 “potentially can inhibit lifesaving therapy in a patient, particularly when the phone is carried in an upper chest pocket.”
In their statements, Apple said the recent iPhone model poses nearly the same risk of interference as their past models and cautioned that the magnets and EMFs may interfere with the function of medical devices.
Henry Ford Heart and Vascular Institute’s cardiologist Gurjit Singh has revealed tests with the iPhone 12 and discovered it can consistently stop defibrillators from working “in a way that could potentially be lethal.”
“When we brought the iPhone 12 close to the patient’s chest the defibrillator was deactivated,” states Singh. “We saw on the external defibrillator programmer that the functions of the device were suspended and remained suspended. When we took the phone away from the patient’s chest, the defibrillator immediately returned to its normal function.”
We were all stunned,” Singh explains. “We had assumed that the magnet[s] would be too weak in a phone to trip the defibrillator’s magnetic switch. We believe our findings have profound implications on a large scale for the people who live daily with these devices, who without thinking, will place their phone in their shirt pocket or upper pocket or their coat – not knowing that it can cause their defibrillator or pacemaker to function in a way that could potentially be lethal.”