Clinical Review

Overcoming LARC complications: 7 case challenges

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CHALLENGE 7: Nonpalpable contraceptive implant

CASE Patient requests device removal to attempt conception

A 30-year-old woman (G2P2) presents for contraceptive implant removal because she would like to have another child. The device was placed 30 months ago in the patient’s left arm. The insertion note in the patient’s medical record is unremarkable, and standard insertion technique was used. On physical examination, you cannot palpate the device.

What is your next course of action?

Nonpalpable implants, particularly if removal is desired, present a significant clinical challenge. Do not attempt removing a nonpalpable implant before trying to locate the device through past medical records or radiography. Records that describe the original insertion, particularly the location and type of device, are helpful.

Related article:
2015 Update on contraception

Appropriate imaging assistance. Ultrasonography with a high frequency linear array transducer (10 MHz or greater) may allow an experienced radiologist to identify the implant—including earlier versions without barium (Implanon) and later ones with barium (Nexplanon). Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography scan, or plain x-ray also can be used to detect a barium-containing device; MRI can be used to locate a non−barium-containing implant.

Carry out removal using ultrasonographic guidance. If a deep insertion is felt to be close to a neurovascular bundle, device removal should be carried out in an operating room by a surgeon familiar with the anatomy of the upper arm.

When an implant cannot be located despite radiography. This is an infrequent occurrence. Merck, the manufacturer of the etonorgestrel implant, provides advice and support in this circumstance. (Visit view.html.)

Recently, published case reports detail episodes of implants inserted into the venous system with migration to the heart or lungs.10 While this phenomenon is considered rare, the manufacturer has recommended that insertion of the contraceptive implant avoid the sulcus between the biceps and triceps muscles.

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