E-cigarette interferes with user’s implantable cardiac device, creating potential for ‘fatal consequences’

A patient’s e-cigarette interfered with their implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) and prevented the device from properly functioning, according to a new analysis published in HeartRhythm Case Reports. This is believed to be the first reported documentation of such an incident.

The 48-year-old patient reported hearing the ICD “beep” on numerous occasions, a signal caused by the e-cigarette being stored in his left breast pocket. Providers explained to the patient that the e-cigarette’s magnetic component needed to be kept away his ICD at all times to avoid any potential issues.

“Magnets are ubiquitous in commercially available electronic devices,” wrote first author Julie B. Shea, MS, Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and colleagues. “The general recommendation is that any portable electronic devices or magnetic sources should be maintained at least six inches away from any implanted device; higher-grade systems such as engines, electric fences and high-voltage power lines require a larger distance to ensure reliable device function.”

The patient did not experience any negative side effects from this incident. However, the authors noted, “there is potential for unintentional temporary programming and arrhythmic complications when an electronic cigarette is placed in close proximity to an ICD or pacemaker.”

“Given the increasing use of e-cigarettes worldwide, recognition of this potentially serious interaction appears clinically important,” they wrote. “In our case, there was no adverse event from the e-cigarette-induced ICD magnet reversion. However, suspension of tachycardia therapies from inadvertent magnet application to the ICD could have fatal consequences, if coincidental with a tachycardia episode.”