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Concerns raised about keeping latest iPhone near to an ICD

Writing in the medical journal Heart Rhythm, Dr Joshua C Greenberg (Section of Cardiac Electrophysiology, Henry Ford Heart and Vascular Institute, Henry Ford Hospital, Michigan, USA) and colleagues report that the latest generation of iPhone (iPhone 12 series, Apple) could, potentially, prevent an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) from working properly. They add the iPhone could particularly cause a problem if kept near to an ICD device.

According to Greenberg et al, the recently launched iPhone 12 series (Apple) has been designed to be compatible with “MagSafe” accessories. The authors explain that this compatibility helps to properly align the iPhone on a wireless charger and other peripheral accessories, increasing wireless charging speeds.

However, the paper’s lead author — Dr Greenberg — was concerned that this feature of the new iPhone could interfere with an ICD “due to presence of a strong magnetic array in the iPhone and MagSafe compatible cases”. Therefore, he and his colleagues tested whether the iPhone would interact with an ICD by bringing the device over the left chest area of a patient with a Medtronic ICD. They found this resulted in “immediate suspension of ICD therapies, which persisted for the duration of the test”. The result was reproduced multiple times when the phone was put in different positions over the left chest area.

However, Greenberg et al do note that Apple, on its website, mentions “magnetic interference with medical devices and [recommends] prior consulting with physician and medical device manufacturers”.  They conclude: “Medical device manufacturers and implanting physicians should remain vigilant in making patients aware of this significant interaction of the iPhone 12 and other smart wearables with their cardiac implantable electronic devices”.

Medtronic state that the risk of a smartphone, or any other wireless communication device, causing problems with an ICD is “minimal”, but they do advise keeping a distance of at least six inches between the device and the ICD. Therefore, people with an ICD (or any implanted cardiac electronic device) should not keep their smartphones (regardless of the brand or generation) near to where the ICD has been implanted.

For more information about implantable cardiac devices, including ICDs, download Arrhythmia Alliance’s CRT/ICD/S-ICD patient information booklet here.

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