New iPad’s Magnets May Cause Medical Shunt Valves to Malfunction

The magnets in Apple’s third generation iPad may be a health risk to some users. Researchers at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor discovered that getting close to a new iPad can cause magnetically set shunt valves to malfunction.

When valves get within 1 cm of the device, the iPad is able to change the setting on the programmable shunts. At distances of 2.5 cm, Apple’s iPad occasionally reset the valve, which could be problematic for patients with hydrocephalus (excess fluid in the brain) and magnetically set shunt valves.

The iPad 2 and the newest iPad both come equipped with magnets on two sides of the device that allows Apple’s Smart Cover to attach. These magnets aren’t much more powerful than your typical household magnet, but they’re still strong enough to affect some medical equipment.

These experiments were conducted after a four-month-old girl had a shunt malfunction within weeks of insertion, after her mother held her while using an iPad 2. Exposure to the iPad ended up changing the settings on 58 percent of valves across 100 exposures during tests.

The risk of valve malfunction decreases significantly with distance, and at 5 cm to 10 cm away, the iPad was not able to change the settings on the valve.

Of course, the valves were not tested in real clinical situations, where there are thick layers of scalp and tissue to protect the shunt from the magnets in the device.

While it can be risky to use an iPad with a shunt, just keeping the iPad a safe distance away is enough to prevent any problems. Kids and adults alike can still get an Angry Birds fix – just keep the iPad at a reasonable distance.

[via MedPage Today]


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  • Tacckky

    As a parent of a child with Hydrocephalus, I have a better and safer option. Just get a samsung galaxy 10.1 tablet. My daughter has one and it poses no danger to her shunt and Samsung has been notified that the magnets are dangerous and they are willing to make sure that Samsung products stay safe for children and adults with hydrocephalus.