health

Serious question: Can a birth control implant get lost inside your arm? A doctor explains.

When mum Kelly King decided to have her birth control implant removed from her arm, it wasn’t the simple procedure she thought it would be.

“I sat in a chair while three doctors/nurses dug in my arm searching for it for over an hour,” the Michigan woman wrote in a Facebook post.

“After an x-ray and more digging to come up empty-handed still, I am now left with it still in my arm, stitches, swollen and bruised arm, along with another appointment to have it surgically removed!”

A few months later, King posted an update. She had managed to get the implant removed by her obstetrician. The post has been shared more than 80,000 times, and has had more than 50,000 comments.

Some women have reported having similar problems.

“Same thing happened to me,” wrote one woman. “They had to do two procedures before they found it. Five years later I still have the scars to look at.”

However, other women have said they’ve had no problems with the implant at all.

So, is it possible?

Melbourne gynaecologist Dr Philippa Costley says a birth control implant can move around in the arm.

“It’s not a common thing to occur, but occasionally it does occur, especially if the implant has been put in too deeply or if the patient has a lot of subcutaneous tissue or fat tissue above it,” she tells Mamamia.

However, it’s definitely not the norm for doctors to dig around in the arm for two hours, trying to find it. Dr Costley says if she couldn’t feel the implant under the skin, she’d use ultrasound to locate it.

“Then, if there are any anticipated difficulties with removing it, I’d recommend a general anaesthetic,” she adds.

Dr Costley says a woman with an implant should be able to feel it.

“The patient should always be aware of where exactly it is. That’s part of the checking process.”

The main birth control implant used in Australia is Implanon NXT. Dr Costley says it has a good safety record, but like any medication, it has side effects. The most common one is irregular periods, while depression is a less common one.

“It’s something we certainly monitor for, but that’s not common,” she says. “If there’s any thought that there’s any effect on the patient’s mental health, then I’d remove it.”

Photo credit: Facebook

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