US Food and Drug Administration Clearance of Moderate-Risk Otolaryngologic Devices via the 510(k) Process, 1997-2016

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ObjectiveThe US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) clears moderate-risk devices via the 510(k) process based on substantial equivalence to previously cleared devices; evidence of safety and effectiveness is not required. We characterized the premarket evidence supporting FDA clearance of otolaryngologic devices.Study DesignRetrospective cross-sectional analysis.SettingPublicly available FDA documents.Subjects and MethodsRecently cleared (1997-2016) moderate-risk otolaryngologic devices were categorized by type (diagnostic/therapeutic), subspecialty, implantable designation (yes/no), and recall history (yes/no). Supporting evidence was categorized by type (clinical/nonclinical/none; nonclinical and clinical mutually inclusive) and public availability of nonclinical and clinical performance data (available/not provided/not applicable).ResultsBetween 1997 and 2016, the FDA cleared 377 moderate-risk otolaryngologic devices. The majority were therapeutic (n = 240/377 [63.7%]) and otologic (n = 311/377 [82.5%]); roughly one-third (n = 121/377 [32.1%]) were implantable. Few (n = 10/377 [2.7%]) devices were subject to recall. FDA documents summarizing premarket evidence were accessible for two-thirds (n = 247/377 [65.5%]) of devices. Among these devices, one-quarter (n = 66/247 [26.7%]) were supported by clinical evidence. The majority (n = 177/247 [71.7%]) were supported by nonclinical evidence, although nearly one-quarter (n = 58/247 [23.5%]) were cleared without supporting evidence. Therapeutic devices were more often cleared without supporting evidence (therapeutic: n = 53/170 [31.2%]; diagnostic: n = 5/77 [6.5%]; P < .0001). Nonclinical and clinical performance data were rarely available (nonclinical: n = 49/247 [19.8%]; clinical: n = 32/247 [13.0%]) within public summaries.ConclusionThe FDA cleared most moderate-risk otolaryngologic devices for marketing via the 510(k) process without clinical evidence of safety and effectiveness. Otolaryngologists should be aware of limitations in premarket evidence when considering the adoption of new devices into clinical practice.

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