Investigators at Medical Device Safety Institute at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston have shown that magnets, which are found in most headphones, may interfere with implantable pacemakers and defibrillators if placed close enough for a sufficient amount of time.
From Beth Israel Deaconess:
Researchers tested eight different models of MP3 player headphones (including both the clip-on and earbud variety) with iPods® on 60 defibrillator and pacemaker patients.
“We placed the headphones on the patients’ chests, directly over where their devices are located, monitoring them for evidence of an interaction,” Maisel [William H. Maisel, MD, MPH, senior author of the study and director of the Medical Device Safety Institute at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center] said.
The researchers found a detectable interference with the device by the headphones in 14 patients, (23 percent). Specifically, they observed that 15 percent of the pacemaker patients and 30 percent of the defibrillator patients had a magnet response, Maisel said.
“For patients with pacemakers, exposure to the headphones can force the device to deliver signals to the heart, causing it to beat without regard to the patients’ underlying heart rhythm,” he said. “Exposure of a defibrillator to the headphones can temporarily deactivate the defibrillator.” In most cases, removal of the headphones restores normal device function.
The researchers also tested the magnetic field strengths of each of the headphone models using a gauss meter, which measures the units of magnetic charge produced.
Field strength of 10 gauss at the site of the pacemaker or defibrillator has the potential to interact with the implantable device. The researchers found that some of the headphones had field strengths as high as 200 gauss or more.
“Even at those high levels, we did not observe any interactions when the headphones were at least 3 cm, or about 1.2 inches, from the skin’s surface,” Maisel said.
“Patients should not focus on the brands we tested but instead should simply be instructed to keep their headphones at least 3 cm from their implantable devices.”
Instead, patients should not place headphones in their pocket or drape them over their chest.
“For family members or friends of patients with implantable defibrillators, they should avoid wearing headphones and resting their head right on top of someone’s device,” he said.
In two unrelated studies, researchers did not report adverse heart-related effects on implantable cardiac devices from other devices.
Researchers in Hyannis, Mass., found that cell phones equipped with wireless technology known as Bluetooth® and pills swallowed to view internal organs are unlikely to interfere with pacemakers or ICDs.
Press release: MP3 Headphones Interfere With Implantable Defibrillators, Pacemakers …
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