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Prescribing Advice for GPs

An NHS Prescribing Advisers' Blog

Implanon failure rate

The etonogestrel contraceptive implant (Implanon® or Nexplanon®) has been the subject of recent media coverage (BBC) with particular attention paid to the number of reported pregnancies that have occurred in users of the implant. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has issued a safety message for patients and healthcare professionals.

Implanon has been available since 1999 and it is estimated that over 1 million have been supplied in the UK. In this same timeframe 584 women have become pregnant while using, or under the impression that they are using this form of contraception.

The MHRA note that healthcare professionals have reported some problems inserting and removing Implanon. In some women who unintentionally became pregnant it was subsequently found that the Implanon had not been inserted at all.

Nexplanon is now available with an easier to use applicator. It is also radio-opaque allowing for easier location on x-ray or CT scan. Healthcare professionals are urged to undergo training in the correct insertion and removal of the implant. The MHRA will continue to monitor these products.

Patients are advised that if they can feel the implant and are within the three year lifespan of the product they need take no action. Patients who cannot locate the implant themselves are advised to ask for confirmation of the presence of the implant at their next routine check and use barrier contraception in the meantime if they are in any doubt about the presence of the implant.

Action: Clinicians should be aware of this media coverage. Women who are using these implants as their preferred method of contraception may seek reassurance.

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10 Comments to “Implanon failure rate”

  1. Hi. I've had the implant in my arm over 5yrs now. My GP can't detect it in my body. I've been for an ultrasound and a MRI and they still cant detect it. I've been trying for over 2yrs now to get it removed and my GP has said he doesn't know what to do now and I'm left trying to figure this all oout on my own. Myself and my partner are trying to get pregnant but theres no chance in it happening when its still missing. Can anybody recommend what I can do please?

    Comment by aine — September 23, 2016 #

    1. @Aine

      It is difficult to advise without knowing the complete story and fuller details of the investigations so far. An ultrasound and MRI of the arm that failed to locate the implant should be followed up with imaging of the chest to see f the implant has migrated there. It might be worth speaking to your GP again or seeing if there is a local sexual health and family planning clinic you could visit for further advice and investigation.

      Also bear in mind that there have been cases where the implant has never been inserted in the first place.

      Comment by Matthew Robinson — September 26, 2016 #

  2. Hi, I have just returned from trying to have my IMPLANON removed, to no avail.
    My choice for removal was due to wanting to begin a family.
    I haven't been told by my doctor "not to worry it should be ok" but have since been researching & discovered the implant can continue to work for 5-7 years & cause eptopic pregnancy/ miscarriage.
    My gp won't refer me for a scan/day surgery and I'm now at my wits end with worry.
    What is the expected length of cover for an implant? If it remains in my body what are the implications?
    Many thanks

    Comment by Katie — February 19, 2015 #

    1. @Katie

      Implanon was replaced back in 2010 by Nexplanon which is radio-opaque - meaning that it shows up on X-ray and CT scan. I'd suggest that you return to your GP (or another at your surgery), express your concerns and request confirmation of which implant you were given and also ask why the GP is not worried about it's removal.

      Comment by Matthew Robinson — February 21, 2015 #

  3. Hi. I have had 3 children previously and I am 36. After my 3rd child, 12 yrs ago, I have had a implant every 3 years. I recently had to get it removed but was 4 weeks late. On getting it removed it was stuck in muscle and broke in two but was all removed. My last known period was 11 May, since then have had sex numerous times and in last 2 weeks have had light bleeding for 1 day, sore nipples and noticed white colostrum I think coming from my breast on 1 side. I'm not sure whether this implant has worked or if it is just stress I need some answers not sure what to do? Do I get it out could it cause problems if left in longer?

    Comment by Buddahnette — June 19, 2014 #

    1. @Buddahnette,

      You need to get in to see your doctor and get a pregnancy test. It may have been the delay in getting the old implant removed that started issues but the thing you need to do right now is get some medical advice from your own doctor.

      Comment by Matthew Robinson — June 19, 2014 #

  4. Aug 28 of 2013 was my 3yr end and now I am having the problems. It is now Oct 25 2013 and might be expecting at 46. Is this a problem by still having the implanon still in my arm...what should I do?

    Comment by nora gray — October 25, 2013 #

    1. @Nora,

      You need to get to your doctor or a family planning clinic. The old implant needs taking out but is probably not doing any harm. But you need the pregnancy to be confirmed so you can decide what to do next.

      Comment by Matthew Robinson — October 26, 2013 #

  5. hi iv had the implanon in 3years on the 29th of july this month bt im goin on holiday 4 a week on the 28th will it be ok for it 2 stay in till i get back home ?

    Comment by Sarah — July 22, 2011 #

    1. Sarah,

      It won't cause you any harm if it stays in for a week longer - it won't be working as well by now though so if you really don't want to get pregnant you would be wise also using another method of contraception until you have it replaced.

      Comment by Matthew Robinson — July 22, 2011 #

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