Powerful magnets could impact operation of implanted heart devices

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Magnets could cause dangerous interference with the operation of pacemakers and implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs), according to a study published in the December 2006 edition of Heart Rhythm.

The study found that common magnets used in homes and offices are not high risk. However, stronger magnets made from neodymium-iron-boron (NdFeB) may cause interference with cardiac devices and pose potential hazards to patients. NdFeB magnets are increasingly being used in homes and office products, toys, jewelry and even clothing.

“Physicians should caution patients about the risks associated with these magnets,” said Thomas Wolber, a cardiologist at the University Hospital of Zurich in Switzerland and lead author of the study. “We also recommend that the packaging include information on the potential risks that may be associated with these types of magnets.”

For the study, two spherical magnets of eight and 10 millimeters in diameter and one necklace made of 45 spherical magnets were tested on 70 patients, 41 with pacemakers and 29 with ICDs. The magnets were shows to have an impact on the device operation in each patient. However, the researchers noted that cardiac devices resumed normal function after the magnets were removed.

Some researchers who have evaluated magnet interference believe that manufacturers who use magnets should be required to put warning labels on their products for optimal patient safety.

More: www.HRSonline.org