The small magnets in iPads can scramble the settings on implantable shunts, a new study reports, and researchers are cautioning parents to keep a distance between the mobile devices and kids with the hydrocephalus-treating techs.
In the Journal of Neurosurgery, University of Michigan researchers report that the iPad's external magnets, when held within 1 cm of Medtronic's ($MDT) Strata shunts, changed the settings on 58% of the tested valves. But that rate decreased to 5% from 2.5 cm away and zero from 5 cm or farther, Medgadget reports.
The researchers concluded that patients with the shunts can safely be around iPads, but that parents should take care not to get the devices too close to their kids. And it's not just Apple's popular device: Other household magnets could have the same effect, the researchers warn.
The shunts control the flow of cerebrospinal fluid to reduce neural pressure in hydrocephalic children, and it's their magnetic programmability that makes them susceptible to outside influence. The researchers launched the study after a doctor found that a 4-month-old girl had muddled shunt settings, and her mother reported holding her baby and iPad at the same time, according to Medgadget.
For its part, Medtronic had already warned patients with Strata shunts of the risk of exposure to magnets.