Medical implants are devices planted in the human body to replace a biological structure, support it, or enhance it. Tens of millions of Americans are living with medical implants and thousands are getting them each year.
Medical implants are a huge business. Some of us go down this route for body enhancements, others have pressing medical reasons for it. Depending on the risks they pose to the wearer, the US FDA has classified them as Class I, II, or III, with those in the class I posing the least risk and requiring the least regulatory controls and those in class III requiring the most regulatory controls.
The most common medical implants include hip replacements, pacemakers, stents, breast implants, spine rods, artificial discs, artificial knees, and artificial eye lenses.
Whatever your case, given the scope for things to go wrong with medical implants, here’s a list of questions you must ask your healthcare provider before you undergo a surgical process.
1. How will the implant benefit you?
First things first. Why are you undergoing this procedure and exactly what do you hope to benefit from it?
2. Is your doctor experienced enough in this case?
How much experience (of the satisfactory kind) does your doctor hold in carrying out the implant you are up for? Asking pointed questions now may unnerve you a bit but you’d be better off in the future because of them.
3. What is the implant made of?
Implants are made of a number of materials ranging from biomedical to artificial. They could be made of skin, body tissue, bones, or metal, plastic, titanium, and silicone.
What are the known reactions caused by the materials to be used in your implant? What are the chances of you developing a similar reaction to your implant?
4. Will the implant be permanent or removable?
For a permanent implant you need to know how long before it can be removed, and the procedure involved in its removal.
5. Will there be other procedures involved?
How many more procedures will you have to undergo post your implant, if any? Will there be an ongoing cost involved?
6. What are the known side-effects or complications arising from the implant?
What precautions would you have to take in general to safeguard yourself from any complications arising from the implant? What are the known infections or allergies caused by these implants?
7. What does the research say about the implant?
Getting to know the experience of other patients with similar implants can be very instructive.
The transvaginal mesh device, intended to be a permanent implant, ended up causing a number of complications in thousands of women, prompting FDA intervention and ultimately product recall and huge payouts to the victims. It’s important to note that this took place over several years, during which information about the unreliability of the device must have come out.
Thanks to the Web though it’s easier to glean important information now and you don’t have to rely solely on what your healthcare provider tells you.
8. What would it be like living with that implant?
At the end of the day, the purpose of an implant is to improve your life. It may come with a hidden cost (in the form of a risk of infection or a later corrective surgery) but even without them you need to know upfront the day-to-day life of a person living with the kind of implant you have opted for. Ask your doctor if you can speak to any of his or her former patients who have undergone a similar surgery. Ask around on the Internet as well. Join online communities where people liberally share with each other their experiences on such matters. The more you ask, the more confident you can be in your decision.
Medical implants are a big deal. It’s your health and your body on the line so make sure you are absolutely clear about what you are getting into. A bit of research and timely questions can make life very easy for you. In case of an implant gone awry, consult a defective medical devices attorney at our firm for free initial counsel.