Should people with CRT devices avoid wearing fitness trackers?

A new study has warned that wearable devices such as smartwatches and other fitness trackers can do more harm than good in some people.

Thanks to wearable devices such as smartwatches and rings, we can now self-monitor our heart rate, blood pressure, and other vital signs. However, certain fitness and wellness trackers could do more harm than good for some people. A new study has warned that these wearable devices can pose serious health risks for those with cardiac implantable electronic devices (CIEDs) such as pacemakers, implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs), and cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) devices.

The study published in Heart Rhythm (the official journal of the Heart Rhythm Society) suggested that wearable devices that employ bioimpedance-sensing technology may cause interference problems with CIEDs such as CRT devices.

Should people with CRT devices avoid wearables?

In the study, the researchers evaluated the functioning of CRT devices while applying electrical current used in devices that employ bioimpedance-sensing technology. Bioimpedance sensing involves emitting a very small, imperceptible current of electricity (measured in microamps) into the body. A sensor measures the response as the current flows through the body and this helps determine the user’s body composition (i.e., skeletal muscle mass or fat mass), level of stress, or vital signs, such as breathing rate.

This is what they found: It generated an electrical interference that interfered with proper functioning of the cardiac implantable electronic device.

While the results do not indicate an immediate or clear risk to patients who wear the trackers, the different levels emitted may cause pacing interruptions or unnecessary shocks to the heart, stated lead investigator Benjamin Sanchez Terrones, PhD, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, USA.

Dr. Sanchez stressed that need for more clinical studies to examine the impact of wearables on CIEDs.

The interaction between smart phones and CIEDs

In most cases, patients with implantable cardiac devices are warned about the potential for interference with electronic gadgets due to magnetic fields. For example, people with a pacemaker are warned against carrying a mobile phone in breast pocket.

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