An Overview of the Regulatory Aspects of Medical Devices From the Viewpoint of Research and Device Manufacturing

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To review the Food and Drug Administration's regulatory requirements for bringing a new or substantially changed medical device to market in the United States, noting the history and current requirements for the continuous spinal catheter.


The relevant laws and guidelines for classifying, testing, and submitting a device to Food and Drug Administration approval are reviewed.


The Food and Drug Administration categorizes medical devices into three classes, based on potential risk for illness or injury presented by a malfunction or failure. Class III devices are the most critical ones, and require a Premarket Approval that includes clinical trials before market introduction. Classes I and II usually require a 510(k), or premarket notification, which usually does not need any clinical data. Testing requirements include biocompatibility testing; physical, functional, and packaging testing; and sterility testing. The continuous spinal catheter (25-32 gauge) was marketed under a 510(k) claiming substantial equivalence to the Bizzarri-Giuffrida 24-gauge catheter, which was a pre-Amendment device. After incidences of cauda equina syndrome were reported with use of the continuous spinal technique, the Food and Drug Administration reclassified the small-gauge catheters as Class III devices, which require a Premarket Approval before being marketed.

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