iPad Affects Shunt Settings

The settings of programmable shunt devices used to treat brain swelling in children can be altered by magnetic fields, such as those given off by the Apple iPad 2.

Jef Akst
Jef Akst

Jef (an unusual nickname for Jennifer) got her master’s degree from Indiana University in April 2009 studying the mating behavior of seahorses. After four years of diving off the Gulf...

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Jun 26, 2012

WIKIMEDIA COMMONS, MATTHEW DOWNEY

Children suffering from hydrocephalus, the abnormal accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the brain, should be careful when using Apple’s popular tablet, the iPad 2: if held within 2 inches of the magnetically programmable shunt devices often used to treat the disorder, the computer’s magnets can change its settings, causing the shunt to malfunction, according to a study published in the August 2012 issue of the Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics.

The authors initiated the study after having issues with a programmable shunt in a four-month-old girl patient who received a shunt with a magnetically programmable valve to regulate the flow of CSF. After the girl’s mother used an iPad 2 while holding her daughter, the doctors found that the patient’s shunt valve settings had been changed.

The iPad 2, unlike the original iPad, contains several magnets, and users often encase it in the magnetic Apple...

Of course, the Apple tablet isn’t the only threat to these programmable devices, as its magnetic field is of similar strength to many household magnets. But it’s important that patients and caregivers are aware of the possible complications, and take appropriate precautions, the authors said.

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