As the holidays are approaching and technology gadgets become the “gift to give”, there has been a concern about shunts and the use of tablets (iPads, Galaxy tablet…etc.) in the recent years. Can they change the shunt’s setting?
Typically we hold an iPad or tablet device in our laps, and not balanced on our heads. And our houses contain magnetic devices that individuals with shunts are around on a daily basis.
Why the concern with the tablets?
As one mom pointed out, sometimes children are playing with their tablet, maybe in bed or on the floor, and they fall asleep. The tablet ends up near their head.
A group of investigators from the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, investigated the effect of a tablet computer on performance-level settings of a programmable shunt valve. They exposed programmable shunt valves to the tablet device with and without the cover at distances of less than 1 cm, 1–2.5 cm, 2.5–5 cm, 5–10 cm, and greater than 10 cm, 100 times for each distances, and they recorded any changes in valve settings.
After reviewing the results, the authors concluded: “…we acknowledge the likelihood that at least some of the changes in performance level that were observed would not have resulted in a clinically relevant change for a patient.” (Maher et al, J Neurosurg Pediatrics 10:118–120, 2012). The authors point out that the original iPad does not contain magnets, therefore these results do not apply to the device. What they found was that iPad 2 devices may alter programmable shunt valve settings, particularly when the tablet is in close proximity to the shunt valve, namely under 2.5 cm or within one inch away from the valve.
The “gift to give” can certainly bring a smile to someone’s face this holiday season. But as with any device, have some knowledge at hand when you make your purchase. Know the type of shunt you or your loved one has, is it a programmable shunt? Ask if the devices you want to purchase have magnets. Finally, once you have purchased your new gadget, use it knowingly and wisely.
For more details please read the original paper published in the Journal of Neurosurgery:
● Jennifer Strahle, M.D., Béla J. Selzer, N.P., Karin M. Muraszko, M.D., Hugh J. l. Garton, M.D., M.H.Sc., and Cormac O. Maher, M.D. Programmable shunt valve affected by exposure to a tablet computer. J Neurosurg Pediatrics 10:118–120, 2012 http://thejns.org/doi/pdf/10.3171/2012.3.PEDS1211
You may also read these recently published articles:
● iPad Risky for Hydrocephalus Shunt Valves, By Crystal Phend, Senior Staff Writer, MedPage Today: Getting too close to a newer iPad may cause magnetically set shunt valves to malfunction, researchers found. http://www.medpagetoday.com/Surgery/Neurosurgery/33485
● iPad 2 and Other Tablet Computers May Interfere With Magnetically Programmable Shunt Valve Settings, ScienceDaily, June 26, 2012, www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120626092544.htm