Overview of high-risk medical device recalls in obstetrics and gynecology from 2002 through 2016: implications for device safety

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Abstract

The field of women's health has endured numerous recent controversies involving medical devices such as pelvic meshes, laparoscopic morcellators, and a hysteroscopic sterilization device. With the recent passage of the 21st Century Cures Act, new legislation will change how the Food and Drug Administration regulates medical devices. Given these controversies and new changes, we investigated high-risk, class I recalls in women's health from 2002 through 2016. Class I recalls for medical devices are defined by the Food and Drug Administration as the most serious recall events and are designated for situations when there is a reasonable probability of serious adverse health consequences or death. We defined a recall event as a group of unique Food and Drug Administration recalls that share a similar reason for recall and occurred within a 1-month time frame. In total, 7 class I recall events were identified encompassing 83 unique recalls affecting >88,000 medical devices in distribution. Recalls involved a broad range of devices used in women's health including diagnostic assays for chlamydia and gonorrhea, a laparoscopic tissue morcellator, and obstetrical/gynecological surgical kits. Four of 7 (57%) recall events were due to postmarketing problems such as improper packaging and labeling while the remaining 3 (43%) recalls were due to premarketing problems (eg, software issues). Additionally, 3 of 7 (43%) recall events were cleared via the 510(k) pathway, while the remaining were essentially exempt from any form of premarket approval. Two recall events involved sterility concerns of 71 surgical kits used in obstetrics and gynecological surgeries representing the majority of affected devices (78,423) in distribution. Class I medical device recalls are rare but serious events. Most recalled devices in women's health had minimal preapproval regulation and were recalled due to both premarketing and postmarketing reasons. Future regulatory efforts to improve postmarketing surveillance may mitigate the potential impact and frequency of class I recalls, but do not replace the need for a higher burden of proof for both safety and efficacy prior to medical device approval.

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