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Saturday, May 11, 2013

iPad2 Health Scare

Gianna Chien, a 14 year old high school student, says that the iPad2 is a health risk for some people with an implanted defibrillator, if they fall asleep with it resting against their chest.  So is a defibrillator the same as a pacemaker?  Apparently not.

A pacemaker keeps the heart beating at the proper rate and doesn't work all the time, only when needed.  An implanted defibrillator is a bigger device that shocks the heart if needed because of rhythm disturbance from the lower chambers of the heart and will correct this rhythm.  A defibrillator also has a pacemaker built into it and is designed to be turned off by magnets.

Gianna Chien is the 14 year old daughter of Dr Walter Chien, a cardiac electrophysiologist.  She was attending a conference with 8000 doctors who were discussing their research results at the 2013 Heart Rhythm Society conference in Denver, Colorado.  Her study found that the 30 magnets inside the cover of the iPad2 can accidentally turn an implanted defibrillator off.  

While the iPad2 magnets aren't powerful enough to cause problems when a person is holding it out in front of them, it becomes a potential problem if the person falls asleep with it resting against their chest, she found.

Trudy Muller, a iPad spokeswoman, didn't comment on the study but said their online product guide cautions users about radio frequency interference and suggests that patients with pacemakers  keep the iPad at least six inches away.

Medtronic, the leading manufacturer of defibrillators, said its testing hadn't found any risks with iPad technology if they were used according to the manufacturer's instructions.  But does everyone read the fine print?

Gianna Chien is a freshman at Lincoln High School in Stockton, California and a regular at John Hospkins University's Centre for Talented Youth.  She doubts if she will pursue a career in medicine, for now she loves to write and enjoyed summing up the results of her study for publication in a medical journal.  One day she hopes to write a novel.

"Since tablets are becoming more common, I hope these findings will encourage patients who have, or may be a candidate for implantable defibrillators to talk to their doctor about precautions if they use a tablet like the iPad2" she said.