iPods May Not Put Pacemakers Off Beat

SYDNEY, NSW - AUGUST 17: A man listens to an iPod MP3 player through earphones August 17, 2005 in Sydney, Australia. Research conducted by the National Acoustic Laboratories, to be released by the Australian Federal Government today, has found that up to a 25% of people who use iPods or other portable music devices will suffer from hearing problems as a result of listening to their players at "excessive and damaging" levels. GETTY

Digital media players such as the iPod may not interfere in a dangerous way with pacemakers and implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs), new research shows.

But to be on the safe side, people may want to keep digital medial players at least 6 inches away from their pacemaker or ICD -- for instance, not carrying it in a chest pocket -- and turning the players off or putting them away when programming or checking on pacemaker or ICD function.

That's the take-home message from two studies and an editorial in April's edition of Heart Rhythm.

Together, the two studies included 151 patients with pacemakers or ICDs. They were closely monitored by doctors and nurses as various digital media players were played while resting on their chest. In one study, the players were only switched on for 10 seconds.

None of the patients in either study had any pacemaker or ICD symptoms during the experiment, and all of the heart devices functioned properly.

The only electrical interference seen in the studies didn't affect how the pacemakers or ICDs worked. Instead, it affected the communication between the pacemaker or ICD and a monitoring device.

That interference didn't happen every time the players were used, and in one study, the interference stopped when the player was moved away from the pacemaker or ICD.

"Our patients should be reassured that there is no evidence that portable media players will negatively affect their devices," states an editorial published with the study.

The researchers included Charles Berul, MD, of Children's Hospital Boston, and Ranjan Thakur, MD, of the Thoracic and Cardiovascular Institute and Michigan State University in Lansing, Mich. Several of the researchers on Berul's team, including Berul, note financial ties to various heart device companies.

The editorialists included Andrew Krahn, MD, of Canada's London Health Sciences Centre in London, Ontario.

In January, an FDA scientist reported that iPods give off "miniscule" voltages that didn't interfere with the pacemakers he tested. He conducted that study after reading about a reported case of an iPod interfering with a pacemaker.

By Miranda Hitti
Reviewed by Louise Chang
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