By the year 2023, the number of individuals with pacemakers and defibrillators is expected to increase to 1.43 million units worldwide.

So do these patients or for that matter, any of us need to be concerned about the potentially dangerous effects of portable electronic devices (PEDs)? Although implanted, the pacemaker and defibrillator are PEDs. You do know PEDs depend on electromagnetic fields. Magnets can inhibit the pulse generators of these devices. The human body is alive with electromagnetic fields, most obviously, generated by our nervous system! That’s why a medical MRI scan can give you a metallic taste and even nausea and make you dizzy – but it is only short-lived. Dangerous Device Interference

Maybe you already keep PEDs away from vital organs, your brain, and gonads but what if you have a life-saving medical device planted under your skin (commonly in the chest area)? You have noticed how close proximity of PEDs to each other can causes problems and you are instructed to move further away from the ‘interference’?

Many medical devices especially implanted ones have magnetic activities. Interference, therefore, is possible. Cardiac implantable electronic devices (CIEDs), such as implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) can suspend rapid heartbeats (tachycardia) and/or cardiovert-defibrillate a failing heart. Another implanted device can pace a heart that no longer can pace itself (asynchronous pacemakers).

In a medical setting, a special magnet is placed over the chest to place the implanted devices in the Magnet mode. In this mode, the device’s operation is interfered with hence it can be tested and/or set then returned when the magnet is removed to standardized mode. 

Therefore care must be taken, with the use of any PED, not to ever place them near implanted devices as they can cause interference. 

Swiss investigators, to learn more about PEDs and implanted medical device safety, studied the Apple AirPods Pro and their wireless charging case, the Microsoft Surface Pen,  the Apple Pencil 2nd generation, and iPhone 12 Pro Max. They compared the field strength of these PEDs around implanted medical devices. This study used 3D mapping, a more realistic and accurate method than the one-axis mapping that the FDA uses to test in this area. The results were quite interesting.  For example, case open vs. case closed for the Air Pods Pro had different safe distances. It was noted that the proximity of an 8 mm difference of magnetic field effect depends if the AirPodsPros case was open or closed – a safer distance if open!

The location of each PED’s strongest magnetic field and 3D mapping of its distance to affect a medical device were measured.

Magnet reversion mode was triggered at a distance between 8 mm (.315 inches) and 18 mm ( .708 inches) for the tested devices. Pretty close I’d say! The NIH & FDA state ‘To be safe, keep your PEDs at least 6 inches away..” from implanted medical devices

Note: Electronic cigarettes are also a culprit in the malfunctioning of medically implanted devices. Vape pens contain magnetic components used in charging and can interfere with the magnetic features of certain medical devices, including pacemakers. There have been reported cases of this interference. Hence, the global statement, keep electronic magnetic devices like vape pens, at least 6 inches from where the implant lies.