Magnets may pose serious risks for patients with pacemakers and ICDs

WASHINGTON, November 30, 2006 – Magnets may interfere with the operation of pacemakers and implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs), according to a study published in the December 2006 edition of Heart Rhythm.

Researchers found that while common magnets for home and office use with low magnetic strength posed little risk, 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," says 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."

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. Magnetic interference was observed in all patients. The cardiac devices resumed normal function after the magnets were removed.

In an accompanying editorial, Huagui Li, M.D., a cardiologist at the Minnesota Heart Clinic in Edina, MN., writes, "This study is timely and important to attract the attention of both the public and the medical profession about the potentially serious health consequences of magnets used in decoration products... for an ICD patient, the magnet interference can be fatal."

Dr. Li concludes that manufacturers who use magnets should be required to put warning labels on their products for optimal patient safety.

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Editor's Note: To schedule an interview with Dr. Wolber or receive a copy of the article, please contact Rachael Lille Moore at 202-464-3476 or rmoore@hrsonline.org.

About the Heart Rhythm Society

The Heart Rhythm Society is the international leader in science, education and advocacy for cardiac arrhythmia professionals and patients, and the primary information resource on heart rhythm disorders. Its mission is to improve the care of patients by promoting research, education and optimal health care policies and standards. Incorporated in 1979 and based in Washington, DC, it has a membership of over 4,000 heart rhythm professionals in more than 60 countries around the world.

About Heart Rhythm

Heart Rhythm provides rapid publication of the most important science developments in the field of arrhythmias and cardiovascular electrophysiology. As the Official Journal of the Heart Rhythm Society, Heart Rhythm publishes both basic and clinical subject matter of scientific excellence devoted to the electrophysiology (EP) of the heart and blood vessels, as well as therapy. The journal is the only EP publication serving the entire electrophysiology community from basic to clinical academic researchers, private practitioners, technicians, industry and trainees. Heart Rhythm received a debut Impact Factor of 2.6 and was ranked 21st out of 72 cardiovascular medicine journals by the Institute for Scientific Information. Additionally, the journal ranks fifth in the Immediacy Index among cardiology publications. It is also the official publication of the Cardiac Electrophysiology Society.


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