Doctors are warning about a potential life-threatening issue related to Apple’s iPhone 12.
A powerful new magnet in the smartphone device can interfere with pacemakers and implanted cardiac defibrillators among patients with serious heart issues, according to research by specialists in cardiac electrophysiology.
Dr Gurjit Singh of Henry Ford Heart & Vascular Institute in the US is an expert in cardiac devices which contain switches that respond to an external magnet to change how the device functions.
“Obviously, we can’t perform surgery every time we need to control one of these devices, which is why they are engineered to allow us to use strong magnets over the chest to control their function,” Dr Singh explained.
In testing conducted last month, the iPhone 12’s magnet demonstrated a surprising ability to switch off an implanted defibrillator.
“When we brought the iPhone close to the patient’s chest the defibrillator was deactivated,” he said in a statement.
“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.
“We were all stunned,” Dr Singh said. “We had assumed that the magnet would be too weak in a phone to trip the defibrillator’s magnetic switch.”
The researchers had focused on defibrillator devices and said the finding showed some patients could see their medical implant “function in a way that could potentially be lethal” if the iPhone 12 device was held in the breast pocket.
More research with different brands of defibrillators and pacemakers will be undertaken by Dr Singh and his team but an early manuscript of their findings was published in the medical journal HeartRhythm.
“We hereby report an important public health issue concerning the newer-generation iPhone 12, which potentially can inhibit lifesaving therapy in a patient, particularly when the phone is carried in an upper chest pocket,” the doctors wrote.
iPhone 12 has ‘more magnets’: Apple
The iPhone 12’s magnet is thought to be more powerful to optimise it with Apple’s MagSafe accessory, a magnetically-attached wireless charger.
“These magnets and electromagnetic fields might interfere with medical devices,” Apple’s support page said last month, after the HeartRhythm piece.
“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,” the company said.
The support page recommends users keep their iPhone and MagSafe accessories more than 15 centimetres away from any medical implant and 30 centimetres away when wirelessly charging.
According to the latest cardiac implantable electronic device (CIED) survey in Australia, in 2017 there were 17,971 pacemakers sold in the country and 4,212 new implants of cardioverter-defibrillators.
Do you have a story tip? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.