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Magnets in Cellphones, Smartwatches Might Affect Pacemakers, FDA Warns

FRIDAY, May 14, 2021 -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning that strong magnets in some cellphones and smartwatches can interfere with pacemakers and other implanted medical devices.

Studies have shown that these high-strength magnets may cause some implants to switch to "magnet mode," stopping normal functioning until the magnet is moved away from the device. Many implants have a "magnet mode" so they can be safely operated during medical procedures, such as MRI scans. Doctors typically activate these features by placing a high-strength magnet near the implant. Removing the magnetic field restores normal operation of the medical device.

The FDA said patients with implanted medical devices should take the following precautions: (1) keep cellphones and smartwatches six inches away from implanted medical devices, especially heart defibrillators; (2) do not carry these devices in a pocket over the medical implant; (3) check the device using a home monitoring system; and (4) consult their physician if they are having any symptoms or have questions about magnets in consumer electronics and implanted medical devices.

The FDA conducted its own testing on some products that use the high field strength magnet feature and said that it considers the risk to patients low. The agency said it is not aware of any adverse events associated with this issue at this time.

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