Should you be wearing a Fitbit if you’ve also got a pacemaker?
Wearable technology such as fitness trackers and smartwatches have become extremely popular, as bioimpedance sensing tech help us to keep track of a number of helpful health stats. However, according to new research, that same tech could be affecting the way that implanted medical devices, such as pacemakers, function.
Smartwatches, smart rings, smart scales, fitness trackers and other gadgets can all cause interference.
The study was published in the Heart Rhythm journal showed that a broad spectrum of wearable technology and other gadgets that measure fitness-related activities, such as smart scales, could interfere with the proper function of cardiac implantable electronic devices (CIEDs) such as pacemakers, implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) and cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) devices.
The researchers determined that wearable smart gadgets use an electrical current to collect the data used to provide physical activity and wellness feedback – called bioimpedance sensing – is what interferes with the way some implanted cardiac work. This includes medical devices from the three top manufacturers.
The bioimpedance sensing technology in wearable technology uses a tiny imperceptible electrical current.
Fitness trackers and other similar gadgets use a very small electrical current that is so mild it can’t even be felt. It helps to measure a person’s body composition including muscle mass, body fat levels, stress levels and even rate of breathing. Wearable fitness trackers can record health-related metrics, such as how many steps are taken, the distance the wearer has walked, heart rate, daily calories burned, blood pressure, sleep patterns, and many other functions.
“Bioimpedance sensing generated an electrical interference that exceeded Food and Drug Administration-accepted guidelines and interfered with proper CIED functioning,” explained Dr. Benjamin Sanchez Terrones, lead researcher in the study, from the University of Utah.
He also explained that the results did not suggest that there was a certain or immediate risk to cardiac device patients also wearing fitness trackers. However, they did suggest that there is a risk of pacing interruptions or unnecessary shocks to the heart due to the different electrical current levels emitted by wearable technology. The researchers recommended further study to determine just what kind of a risk is actually present.