Who doesn’t love a shiny new smartphone? They wake us up in the morning, keep us connected to colleagues during the workday and friends and family at weekends, help us get from A to B, and indeed almost live our lives for us. These days there seems to be an app for everything and nothing they cannot do.
Unfortunately one thing they CAN do is stop pacemakers and ICDs from working, particularly if stored in a pocket over the pacemaker/ICD insertion site, and this particularly so for some of the newer phone models such as the recently released iPhone 12.
This was tested by researchers who published their findings in the medical journal Heart Rhythm (access to the full article can be found by clicking here). ICDs work by tracking the heart rate and rhythm and delivering a shock to the heart if an abnormal rate and/or rhythm reaches a pre-set threshold for a set period of time; failure to act swiftly might otherwise lead to unconsciousness or even sudden death. Researchers found that bringing the iPhone 12 near to the ICD site prevented the device from being able to deliver a shock. This was reproducible and lasted for the whole time that the phone was held over the device implantation site.
Unlike the gentleman in our image, people with ICDs and pacemakers should never carry a smartphone in a pocket which lies over their device site. If you have an ICD/pacemaker and a smartphone and are in any doubt about whether the phone will interfere with your device, please take it with you to your next pacemaker or ICD check so that the physiologists can test this for you.