Shock to the System

A U study finds health risks associated with popular wearable devices

Wearable devices like smartwatches have become common tools for health-conscious individuals in the digital age. However, a recent study conducted in a lab at the U has revealed there may be potential health risks from some of these electronic fitness gadgets, and in certain cases, they could prove fatal for those who use cardiac implantable electronic devices (CIEDs) like pacemakers, implantable cardioverter defibrillators, and cardiac resynchronization therapy devices.

The study—led by U electrical and computer engineering assistant professor Benjamin Sanchez Terrones and U of U Health associate professor of medicine Benjamin Steinberg—focuses on wearable devices such as the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4, Fitbit smart scales, and Moodmetric smart rings. These devices utilize sensing technology that could potentially interfere with CIEDs.

“These results call for future clinical studies evaluating the translation of our findings to patients with CIEDs and using these wearable devices,” explains Sanchez Terrones.

The study, published in the scientific journal Heart Rhythm, raises concerns specifically about smartwatches, smart scales, and smart rings that employ bioimpedance sensing technology. This technology emits a minute electrical current into the body to measure various parameters. While it is imperceptible to the user, the study found that the electrical currents from these wearables can disrupt and confuse cardiac implantable devices, potentially leading to malfunctions.

The researchers stress that the study does not indicate an immediate or definitive risk to users of these wearables. However, they believe it is crucial to conduct further investigations involving a wider range of devices and potentially include patients with CIEDs to ensure patient safety and fully understand the clinical implications.


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