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Heart Disease Health Center

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iPads Could Affect Implanted Heart Devices: Study

Young researcher suggests that users avoid placing tablets too close to the chest


An expert noted how difficult it could be to detect such a malfunction.

"The real problem is that you don't even know; there is no trigger, no light goes off [to alert you]," said Dr. Salvatore Insinga, a neurosurgeon at the Cushing Neuroscience Institute at North Shore-LIJ Health System, in New York. "With all the tech devices people are using now and all the implanted things in patients, this is more of an issue now." Insinga was not associated with either study.

The new heart rhythm device study involved 27 patients at Central Valley Arrhythmia. Just three patients were women. All were at least 50 years old and had implantable cardiac defibrillators, pacemakers or loop recorders (implanted cardiac monitors). The effect of the close presence of an iPad2 on the chest and at reading distance -- at various programming settings on the iPad and on the heart devices -- was noted.

The authors found that almost 19 percent of the patients with defibrillators had interference from the iPad 2. No effects were noted in the people who had implanted pacemakers or the loop recorder.

Gianna Chien said the study had limitations: The sample size was small, and she would like to test a wider variation of heart devices, because most were manufactured by St. Jude Medical.

The bottom line? Insinga at Cushing Neuroscience recommended that physicians discuss with their patients the risks that technological devices may pose to the settings and function of any implanted devices, and check their patients' medical devices frequently. "No more 'set it and forget it,'" he said.

Chien thinks the issue will continue to pose problems unless the design of tablets changes. "With the aging of the population, there's an expected increase in ICD placement and, with more than 100 million iPads sold, it's a concern," she said.

Because the study was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

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