FDA warns some cell phones, smartwatches may interfere with implanted medical devices


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The FDA has issued a warning that some cell phones and smartwatches containing high field strength magnets may cause some implanted medical devices, especially heart devices, to suspend normal operations near the magnet.

According to an FDA press release, many implanted medical devices such as pacemakers and implantable automatic defibrillators are designed with a “magnet mode” to allow safe operation during certain medical procedures such as MRI. Placing certain cell phones and smartwatches too close to the implanted device can cause the device to switch to magnet mode when it is not supposed to, suspending normal operations, the agency said in the statement.

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The FDA has proposed the following precautions for patients with implanted medical devices:

  • keep consumer electronics such as cell phones and smartwatches 6 inches from implanted medical devices;
  • do not carry electronic devices in a pocket above the medical device;
  • check implanted medical devices using a home monitoring system, if there is one; and
  • consult a health care provider if there are any symptoms or questions regarding this problem.

“The FDA considers the risk to patients to be low, and the agency is not aware of any adverse events associated with this issue at this time,” the agency wrote in the statement.


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