Med Tech Report

What is the real risk of smart phones in medicine?


Smartphones’ risks to patient with cardiac devices

On May 13 of 2021, the FDA issued a warning to cardiac patients about their smart phones and smart watches. Many current personal electronic devices and accessories are equipped with strong magnets, such as those contained in the “MagSafe” connector on the iPhone 12, that can deactivate pacemakers and implanted cardiac defibrillators. These medical devices are designed to be manipulated by magnets for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes, but strong magnetic fields can disable them unintentionally, leading to catastrophic results.

Apple and other manufacturers have acknowledged this risk and recommend that smartphones and other devices be kept at least 6 inches from cardiac devices. Given the ubiquity of offending products, it is also imperative that we warn our patients about this risk to their physical wellbeing.

Dr. Notte is a family physician and chief medical officer of Abington (Pa.) Hospital–Jefferson Health. Dr. Skolnik is professor of family and community medicine at Sidney Kimmel Medical College, Philadelphia, and associate director of the family medicine residency program at Abington Hospital–Jefferson Health. They have no conflicts related to the content of this piece.


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