A Warning to Heart Patients With iPads

A Warning to Heart Patients With iPads

Taryn Williford
May 14, 2013

Weekend naps are the best...falling asleep in a comfy chair after catching up on your Facebook updates or a session of YouTube cat videos. But there's always a little bit of "did-I-drop-it?" panic when you wake up with your iPad on your chest. And if you're one of the 600,000 people in America with a heart defibrilator, rolling over on your screen isn't the only thing to worry about.

A study by a 14-year-old in California (and daughter of a cardiac electrophysiologist) found the Apple's iPad 2 can interfere with implanted heart devices because of the powerful magnets embedded inside the tablet. This science fair project gone right was recently presented to thousands of cardiologists at the Heart Rhythm Society meeting, according to this Bloomberg article.

Implanted defibrillators, which deliver an electric shock to the heart when it stops beating or beats irregularly, are susceptible to powerful magnets held against the chest, as they're intentionally designed to shut them off in case of an emergency at home or anywhere else. 

High school freshman Gianna Chien found the 30 magnets inside Apple's tablet, used to keep a Smart Cover or similar case in place, are more than enough to activate some defibrillators' emergency power-off (eight of Chien's 26 volunteers' defibrillators went into "magnet mode"). Some defibrillators will come back on as soon as the magnet is removed, but many don't. That means somebody could turn off their heart device and not even know it right away.

Although Chien conducted her tests with an iPad, it's not specific to Apple's device. The same issue could happen with any tablet or other device with magnets integrated within. If a person falls asleep with a magnet-equipped device resting on their chest, the close contact can accidentally turn off an implanted heart device. Those magnets aren't powerful enough, however, to cause problems when you're holding the device out in front of your chest at a normal usage distance.

It's easy to dismiss this as an over-achieving high school science fair project (which surprisingly didn't even win first place). But Chien's study can also be a valuable warning for any techies out there with heart devices or to share with friends and family who might benefit from the info..

(Images: Shutterstock, Shutterstock,  Apple)

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