Learn about potential risks of fitness trackers for people with cardiac implantable electronic devices. Findings suggest pacing interruptions or shocks to the heart.
- Some fitness trackers and wellness devices may pose risks to individuals with cardiac implantable electronic devices (CIEDs).
- Bioimpedance sensing technology in wearables can generate electrical interference, potentially affecting CIED functioning.
- The study calls for further research to examine the interaction between wearables and CIEDs in patients.
- Consult with your doctor before using fitness trackers and wearable devices if you have a CIED.
Wearable devices such as smartwatches have become a must-have accessory for health-conscious individuals looking to monitor their vital signs.
However, a recent study warns that some fitness trackers and wellness devices may pose serious risks to people with cardiac implantable electronic devices (CIEDs), such as pacemakers, implantable cardioverter defibrillators, and cardiac resynchronization therapy devices.
The Potential Risks Of Fitness Trackers For Cardiac Implantable Electronic Devices
The study, titled “Safety evaluation of smart scales, smart watches and smart rings with bioimpedance technology shows evidence of potential interference in cardiac implantable electronic devices,” was published in the Heart Rhythm journal.
The research was conducted by cardiologists who evaluated the functioning of CRT devices from three leading manufacturers while applying electrical current used during bioimpedance sensing.
Bioimpedance sensing technology releases a very small, imperceptible current of electricity measured in microamps into the body.
The electrical current flows through the body, and the response is measured by the sensor to determine the person’s body composition (skeletal muscle mass or fat mass), level of stress or vital signs such as breathing rate.
The study found that bioimpedance sensing generated an electrical interference that exceeded the guidelines accepted by the US Food and Drug Administration and interfered with proper CIED functioning.
Potential Risks To Patients Wearing Fitness Trackers
Lead investigator Dr. Benjamin Sanchez Terrones at the University of Utah emphasized that the results, determined through careful simulations and benchtop testing, do not convey an immediate or clear risk to patients who wear the trackers.
However, he noted that the different levels emitted could result in pacing interruptions or unnecessary shocks to the heart.
“Our findings call for future clinical studies examining patients with CIEDs and wearables,” he said.
Wearable Health Tech: The Intersection Of Consumer Devices And Medical Technology
The rise of wearable health tech has grown rapidly in recent years, blurring the line between medical and consumer devices.
Until this study, objective evaluation for ensuring safety has not kept pace with the exciting new gadgets.
“Nearly all, if not all, implantable cardiac devices already warn patients about the potential for interference with a variety of electronics due to magnetic fields – for example, carrying a mobile phone in your breast pocket near a pacemaker,” the researchers added.
The Need For Further Collaborative Research
“Our research is the first to study devices that employ bioimpedance-sensing technology as well as discover potential interference problems with CIEDs such as CRT devices. We need to test across a broader cohort of devices and in patients with these devices. Collaborative investigation between researchers and industry would be helpful for keeping patients safe,” the researchers concluded.
Protecting Your Heart: Final Thoughts
While the results of the study may be concerning, it’s important to note that it’s still unclear what specific brands or models of fitness trackers pose the most significant risks.
For now, the best course of action is to speak with your doctor about the use of fitness trackers and wearable devices if you have a cardiac implantable electronic device.
Shock to the system. News Release 22-Feb-2023. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/980152