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Cardiologists: iPhone 12 can deactivate defibrillators, pacemakers

Apple introduces iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max with 5G
Posted at 5:11 AM, Feb 05, 2021

Cardiologists at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit say they discovered that the iPhone 12 has the ability to deactivate implantable cardiac devices when held too close to a person’s chest.

Apple’s iPhone 12 series features a strong magnet to help maximize charging, which can cause issues with cardiac devices, according to a press release from Henry Ford.

The health system says the phone's magnet can turn off heart defibrillators and can cause a pacemaker to deliver electrical impulses that could drive heartbeats out of sync.

More than 300,000 people in the U.S. get one of these devices implanted every year, according to Henry Ford.

Cardiologists with the health system tested out their theory by holding an iPhone 12 close to a patient’s chest.

“When we brought the iPhone close to the patient’s chest the defibrillator was deactivated,” said Dr. Gurjit Singh, Henry Ford Heart & Vascular Institute cardiologist, in a press release. “We saw on the external defibrillator programmer that the functions of the device were suspended and remained suspended. When we took the phone away from the patient’s chest, the defibrillator immediately returned to its normal function.”

Their findings were published in the medical journal HeartRhytm in January and drew the attention of the FDA, the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation and Apple.

Apple followed up by publishing a warning on its website:

iPhone contains magnets as well as components and radios that emit electromagnetic fields. All MagSafe accessories (each sold separately) also contain magnets—and MagSafe Charger and MagSafe Duo Charger contain radios. These magnets and electromagnetic fields might interfere with medical devices.

Though all iPhone 12 models contain more magnets than prior iPhone models, they're not expected to pose a greater risk of magnetic interference to medical devices than prior iPhone models.

Medical devices such as implanted pacemakers and defibrillators might contain sensors that respond to magnets and radios when in close contact. To avoid any potential interactions with these devices, keep your iPhone and MagSafe accessories a safe distance away from your device (more than 6 inches / 15 cm apart or more than 12 inches / 30 cm apart if wirelessly charging). But consult with your physician and your device manufacturer for specific guidelines.

Consult your physician and medical device manufacturer for information specific to your medical device and whether you need to maintain a safe distance of separation between your medical device and iPhone or any MagSafe accessories. Manufacturers often provide recommendations on the safe use of their devices around wireless or magnetic products to prevent possible interference. If you suspect iPhone or any MagSafe accessories are interfering with your medical device, stop using your iPhone or MagSafe accessories.

We provide more information on safety at Important safety information for iPhone in the iPhone User Guide.

Henry Ford says Singh and his coworkers plan to do a more comprehensive study of various brands of defibrillators and pacemakers and testing them against the magnet in the iPhone 12 and other devices.

Singh and Henry Ford Health System advises that anyone who has an iPhone 12 or phones with magnetic cases or devices containing magnets should keep it at least 6 inches away from their chest at all times.

This story was originally published by WXYZ in Detroit.