Friday, May 11, 2007

High School Kid Says iPods Stop Heart

A high school student in Michigan conducted a study that claims the use of an iPod can interfere with pacemakers when held two inches, and in some cases even 18-inches, from the person’s chest. Whether this claim can be substantiated on a larger scale remains to be seen.

In the student’s test sample, which consisted of 100 patients with a pacemaker (mean age of 77), the iPod interfered with the electromagnetic equipment that monitors the heart 50 per cent of time when held two-inches from the subject’s chest for anywhere from five to 10 seconds. When held 18-inches away, the portable player caused it to misread the heart’s pacing, and apparently in one case, even caused the pacemaker to stop functioning! His conclusion? iPod interference can cause doctors to misdiagnose heart function.

This super-smart student isn’t just creating a cool science project for 9th grade biology - he means business: in addition to an assistant professor in the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Michigan serving as the senior author of the study, the boy’s father is an electrophysiologist, and his mother a rheumatologist. (Talk about a brainy family!)

A Reuters report cites the professor posing the same question we’re all likely asking ourselves: how many 77 year olds do you know own an iPod? I’m no doctor, but I do know it’s possible for people who are much younger to require the medical device. It will be interesting to see if the kid continues his studies. Who knows, maybe one day we’ll see iPod packaging labeled with “do not use if you have a heart condition”.

Since the student only used iPods in his studies, it's not made clear whether it’s something in the internal mechanics of the iPod; or just portable gadgets in general, that could cause the malfunction. Either way, if you have a pacemaker, I’d stick to the radio until further notice.

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