iPhone 12 must be kept 6 inches away from pacemakers and other medical implants, says Apple. Here's why

iPhone contains magnets as well as components and radios that emit electromagnetic fields, which could interfere with pacemakers and defibrillators


                            iPhone 12 must be kept 6 inches away from pacemakers and other medical implants, says Apple. Here's why
Apple is encouraging users who have implants to consult their doctor (Getty Images)

If you have a pacemaker, you may want to be careful around the iPhone 12. Apple has issued a warning to its customers that its smartphones could interfere with medical devices, and this includes pacemakers and defibrillators. The reason? iPhone contains magnets as well as components and radios that emit electromagnetic fields, and these could interfere with medical implants if kept too close.

Medical devices such as implanted pacemakers and defibrillators might contain sensors that respond to magnets and radios when in close contact, explains the company. The statement covers magnets inside iPhone 12, iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max, and MagSafe accessories. “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,” said the company in its latest support document. 

Medical devices such as implanted pacemakers and defibrillators might contain sensors that respond to magnets and radios when in close contact (Getty Images)

Apple notes that all iPhone 12 models contain more magnets than the previous iPhone models, but it also says that they are not expected to pose a greater risk of magnetic interference to medical devices than earlier models. As a precautionary measure and to avoid any potential interactions with the medical devices, Apple has recommended keeping the iPhone and MagSafe accessories at a “safe distance” away from the device. This is defined as being more than 6 inches, or 15 cm apart; or more than 12 inches or 30 cm apart if wirelessly charging.

The statement covers magnets inside iPhone 12, iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max, and MagSafe accessories (Getty Images)

Apple is encouraging users to consult their doctor, as well as the manufacturer of their medical device, for more guidance. “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,” the statement reads. Manufacturers often provide recommendations on the safe use of their devices around wireless or magnetic products to prevent possible interference. “If you suspect the iPhone or any MagSafe accessories are interfering with your medical device, stop using your iPhone or MagSafe accessories,” emphasizes Apple. 

The announcement comes after a recent study found that an iPhone 12 can fully shut down an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) just by being near it. An ICD is a small battery-powered device placed in the chest to monitor heart rhythm and detect irregular heartbeats. An ICD can deliver electric shocks via one or more wires connected to the heart to fix an abnormal heart rhythm.

Recent analysis indicates that an iPhone 12 can fully shut down an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) just by being near it (Getty Images) 

“Implantable Cardioverter-Defibrillator remains the cornerstone therapy in the management of malignant ventricular arrhythmias for patients with high-risk cardiac conditions. Recently, Apple launched the iPhone 12 series which has a circular array of magnets around a central charging coil for the phone to be compatible with MagSafe accessories. MagSafe technology contains a magnetometer and single-coil Near Field Communications (NFC) reader,” write authors. They add, “The magnets aid in properly aligning the iPhone on a wireless charger and other peripheral accessories and increases wireless charging speeds (up to 15 Watts). The first author raised the concerns for possible device-device interaction due to presence of a strong magnetic array in the iPhone and MagSafe compatible cases.”

Accordingly, the research team tested this interaction on a patient with a Medtronic Inc (Minneapolis) ICD. Once the iPhone was brought close to the ICD over the left chest area, “immediate suspension of ICD therapies was noted which persisted for the duration of the test.” This was reproduced multiple times with different positions of the phone over the Pocket, reveal findings published in the journal Heart Rhythm.

“We hereby bring an important public health issue concerning the newer generation iPhone 12 which can potentially inhibit lifesaving therapy in a patient particularly while carrying the phone in upper pockets. Medical device manufacturers and implanting physicians should remain vigilant in making patients aware of this significant interaction of the iPhone 12 and other smart wearables with their cardiac implantable electronic devices,” advise investigators.

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