From the Journals

Energy-based devices for vaginal rejuvenation described in FDA adverse event reports



The use of energy-based devices for vaginal rejuvenation, a practice that sparked a recent safety communication from the Food and Drug Administration, was implicated in nearly four dozen adverse event reports found in the agency’s medical device adverse event reporting database, researchers report.

The 45 unique event reports, submitted to the FDA during October 2015–January 2019, described 46 patients in total, of whom 33 reported long-term effects including pain, numbness, and burning, said the researchers, led by Jusleen Ahluwalia, MD, of the department of dermatology at the University of California, San Diego, and her coauthors. They included 31 that were reported by the patients, 8 reported by the manufacturer; 4 reported by the distributor, and 2 not specified.

These findings emphasize the need for clinical trials to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the lasers and radiofrequency devices that have been marketed and used for so-called vaginal rejuvenation procedures, they wrote in Lasers in Surgery and Medicine. The coauthors are Arisa Ortiz, MD, also with the University of California, San Diego, and Mathew M. Avram, MD, director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Dermatology Laser & Cosmetic Center, Boston. “Randomized studies are necessary to compare these therapies with standard modalities and to establish the safety of these devices,” they wrote.

In July 2018, the FDA issued a safety communication alerting patients and health care providers that the safety and effectiveness of energy-based devices has not been established for procedures described as “vaginal rejuvenation.” Scott Gottlieb, MD, FDA commissioner at the time, issued a statement decrying “deceptive health claims and significant risks” related to devices marketed for those medical procedures. In a November 2018 update, the FDA said they contacted some device manufacturers to express concerns that the devices were being marketed inappropriately and that manufacturers they had contacted so far “responded with adequate corrections.”

In their report, Dr. Ahluwalia and her associates noted that “vaginal rejuvenation” is an ill-defined term that may encompass a variety of procedures related to tightening; dyspareunia; dysuria; urinary incontinence; vulvar issues including irritation, dryness, and atrophy; and orgasmic dysfunction.

They found a total of 58 records in their review of the Manufacturer and User Facility Device Experience database, of which 25 were reported prior to the FDA’s July 2018 statement. Of 45 unique event descriptions found in those records, 39 were categorized as patient-related injuries, while 2 were operator-related injuries, 2 were device malfunctions, and 2 were not specified.

Pain was the most commonly adverse event, accounting for 19 reports in their analysis, while 11 patients reported numbness or burning.

Among the laser- and energy-based devices specifically described in the 39 patient-report injuries, the MonaLisa Touch had the highest number of adverse event reports (16), the data show. “However, this may be reflective of length of time bias as it is one of the first devices utilized to promote vaginal rejuvenation,” the authors pointed out.

In light of these findings, the authors advised clinicians to ask patients about their reasons for seeking vaginal rejuvenation procedures. “Normal variety of female genital appearances should also be reviewed when patients express cosmetic concerns,” they added. Concerns about related to genitourinary syndrome of menopause “or optimizing sexual function may be alleviated by exploring nonprocedural, conservative approaches, such as hormonal creams, if not contraindicated, and/or counseling,” they noted.

The authors provided conflict of interest disclosures related to Zalea, Inmode, Cytrellis, Zeltiq Aesthetics, Soliton, Sciton, Allergan, and Sienna Biopharmaceuticals, among others.

Adverse events related to devices and drugs can be reported to the FDA’s Medwatch program.

SOURCE: Ahluwalia J et al. Lasers Surg Med. 2019 Mar 29. doi: 10.1002/lsm.23084.

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