Merck’s popular new hormonal contraceptive Implanon (etonogestrel) has been reported to have the ability to migrate from the site of implant, and in some rare cases, go missing altogether. Literature provided by Merck in the patient handout cites “problems of insertion and removal,” with Implanon, and that “removal of the implant may be very difficult or impossible because the implant is not where it should be.” In addition to being linked to device migration, Implanon has also recently been associated with life-threatening blood clot clots, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), and other serious side effects.
What’s the problem?
Implanon and other embedded birth control products are among the latest contraceptives to hit the U.S. market. Depending on the user’s preference, the tiny devices can be inserted into the uterus, or even lodged under the skin of the forearm. Get it and forget it, or so the slogan goes.
Forget it or not, more and more Implanon users have reported serious problems with their under-the-skin contraceptive implants. According to a recent article published in the U.K. Daily Mail, a growing number of British women say they fear infertility after their Implanon device mysteriously ‘got lost.’
Dr. Alan Penzias, director of the fellowship program in reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Boston IVF, said, “The most likely cause in cases where it was inserted correctly is migration within the deep fatty tissue of the upper arm.”
Although Implanon is still considered to be relatively safe even if the device gets lost, the user may potentially lose her ability to conceive until it is either located or the hormone runs out, which can take as long as a few years.
Late last year, Toni of Boston, Mass., had an appointment to have her Implanon removed, but when the doctor attempted to retrieve it, the device was nowhere to be found.
“I had to go for an ultrasound so they could make sure it was in the right place,” said Toni, 29, who requested that her last name not be used. “I was a bit nervous that it had somehow dislodged and was floating around.”
Luckily, the ultrasound determined that Toni’s Implanon was still in the correct spot, but her doctor was still unable to remove it because he couldn’t find the string to pull the device out. She ultimately had to undergo surgery to have the implant removed.
“I will never get another one,” she said. “I’m too scared.”