Portable Music Players/iPods May Cause Heart Pacemaker to Malfunction

Portable Music Players/iPods May Cause Heart Pacemaker to Malfunction

sometimes the electrical signals flowing through the heart don't "communicate" properly with the heart muscle, and the heart can start beating in an abnormal pattern — an arrhythmia.Heart block is often caused by a congenital heart defect, although it can also result from disease or injury. Heart block happens when electrical impulses can't make their way from the upper to lower chambers of the heart. When this happens, another node in the lower chambers takes over and acts as the heart's pacemaker. Although it sends out electrical impulses to keep the heart beating, the transmission of the signals is much slower, leading to a slower heart rate.


A pacemaker must be implanted under the skin. This procedure usually takes about 1 hour. You will be given a sedative to help you relax, but you will be awake during the procedure. Pain medicine will be given during the procedure.A small cut is made, usually on the left side of the chest. The health care provider uses x-rays to place the wires (leads) in the heart. After the leads are in place, they are connected to the pacemaker. The pacemaker is placed into the chest area, and the skin around it is closed with stitches. Most patients go home within 1 day of the procedure.

The wires give off tiny bits of electricity that tell your heart when to beat. The pacemaker will make your heart beat faster if you are running around and slower if you are resting. You will have more energy than you used to because the pacemaker will tell your heart when it should beat to keep up with you.

A biventricular pacemaker doesn't increase heart rate, but rather helps coordinate the pumping action of the heart by sending electrical signals to both of your ventricles.This allows your heart to pump blood more effectively and can dramatically improve heart failure symptoms. Because this treatment resets the ventricles' pumping mechanism, it's also referred to as cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT).

Modern pacemakers are externally programmable and allow the cardiologist to select the optimum pacing modes for individual patients. Some combine a pacemaker and implantable defibrillator in a single implantable device. Others have multiple electrodes stimulating differing positions within the heart to improve synchronisation of the lower chambers of the heart.

Pacemakers are a necessary and effective way to treat some problems with the heart's electrical or conduction system. Although more common in adults, pacemakers can be safely implanted at any age, from infancy through old age. Pacemakers use batteries as their energy source. The batteries have a life span of 7 to 15 years depending on the type of pacemaker and amount of time the heart requires pacing. Pacemakers use wires or leads to deliver the energy from the batteries to the heart. The wires also have a limited life span. Therefore, a child may be scheduled for a first-time pacemaker, replacement of the batteries or replacement of the leads. Pacemaker implantation in children is done under general anesthesia so your child will be asleep during the entire procedure.

The optimal goal in treating atrial fibrillation is to restore and maintain sinus rhythm — often a formidable task. Despite therapy with antiarrhythmic drugs, studies have reported recurrence rates of 50 to 60 percent during a mean follow-up of one to two years. In patients with severe symptoms in whom drug therapy fails, ablation of the atrioventricular node and permanent pacing are effective in controlling the ventricular rate. Although ablation of the atrioventricular node does not eliminate atrial fibrillation, it alleviates symptoms and improves the quality of life, exercise tolerance, and left ventricular function. Despite the effectiveness of this treatment in relieving symptoms, its effect on long-term survival in patients with severe symptoms in whom drug therapy has failed is unknown. The potentially deleterious effect on survival of the creation of permanent atrioventricular block and the resulting lifelong commitment to the use of a pacemaker is a serious concern.

A patient with an artificial pacemaker is at risk from environmental factors, most damaging of which are electromagnetic fields. Electromagnetic field can alter, or inhibit an artificial pacemaker and it is an established fact that all electrical dental equipments generate electromagnetic fields. Advancements in pacemaker technology have made them immune to most electrical dental equipment.

The need for long-term post implantation follow up and finite life of the pacemaker needs to be emphasized to the pacemaker patients for early detection of potential complications.“A patient with an implanted cardiac pacemaker died during or shortly after an MR exam. The coroner determined that the death was due to the interruption of the pacemaker by the MR system.

Persons fitted with a heart pacemaker must not enter the controlled area.Devices made from ferromagnetic material such as surgical tools (e.g. aneurism clips scissors and haemostats) and certain components of implantable medical devices (e.g. prostheses, pacemakers and neuro-stimulators) will be attracted to the core of the main magnet and this effect is known as projectiles. Anyone or anything in the direct path of the object may be struck as the object moves toward the magnet. Individuals in or near the MR system could be seriously injured by the effect.

Listening to tunes on an iPod may be great for putting a skip in your step, but it can also play havoc with a heart pacemaker, a new study found.

The portable music players caused pacemakers to malfunction in 50 percent of patients, according to the study by a Michigan high school senior that was expected to be presented Thursday at the Heart Rhythm Society's annual meeting, in Denver.

The biggest concern is that pacemakers store the history of a heart's rhythms, said Jay Thaker, the Okemos High School student, who worked with several doctors on the research. "If a physician was to go back and look at that (history), the physician might think that the patient was having abnormal heart rhythms," he added.

One danger is that heart patients might be treated for conditions that aren't really present, Thaker said. "In addition, if an iPod stopped a pacemaker from working in a patient who was totally dependent on their pacemaker, it could cause the heart to stop," he said.

Many electric devices -- such as cell phones, appliances, microwave ovens and high tension wires -- can produce the same effect. That's why doctors tell their patients not to put any electric device over their pacemaker.

For the study, Thaker and his research team -- which included doctors from Michigan State University and the University of Michigan -- held an iPod two inches from the chests of 83 patients for five to 10 seconds. The result: So-called "telemetry interference" occurred in 29 percent of the patients, and "over sensing" (a pacemaker misreading the heart's function) occurred in 20 percent of patients. In one patient, the pacemaker stopped working. In some cases, interference was detected even when the iPods were held as far as 18 inches from the chest, the study found.

Thaker acknowledged that pacemaker patients aren't the typical iPod user. But because the music players are so common, people with pacemakers need to be aware of the risk, he said.

"People commonly strap their iPod to the arm right next to their pacemaker or put it in a shirt pocket. There are quite a few situations where they come in proximity to the pacemaker -- closer than we would like them to," said Thaker, whose father is an electrophysiologist and whose mother is a doctor, and who hopes to attend medical school.

Dr. Edwin Kevin Heist, a cardiac electrophysiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, agrees that iPods can be a danger to patients with pacemakers.

"It's clear that iPods can affect pacing function," said Heist. "There is a possibility for a severe reaction, such as loss of consciousness."

Heist said he tells his patients that they can use any household device, including cell phones and iPods, but not to put them over their pacemaker. "Patients with a pacemaker could safely use an iPod, just don't put it over the device," he said.

iPods could also pose a problem for patients with implanted pacemaker defibrillators, Heist said. "The possibility would be there for inappropriate shock," he said. "The shocks are quite painful and traumatic for patients."

Once you get your pacemaker you will come to the clinic every six to twelve months for a check-up. You will also be asked to send in transtelephonic EKGs every one or two months depending on how old the pacemaker is. To send in a transtelephonic EKG you place a little monitor on your chest, turn it on, and wait for it to start making a regular beeping sound. This sound comes from your heart beating. Then you put the phone over the monitor and your EKG will print out on a printer in the EKG lab. Next you put a special magnet over your pacemaker and transmit again.

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