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A Woman's Birth Control Implant Dislodged From Her Arm, Ending Up In Her Lung

A 31-year-old woman had used the contraceptive method for eight years but had no idea it had ended up in her left lung.

In news that might leave every woman with a birth control implant rushing to their doctor, a Portuguese woman who originally had the contraceptive method placed in her upper arm discovered the Implanon NXT, somehow travelled to her lung without her knowledge.

The woman suffered from abnormal vaginal bleeding for three months before she chose to see a doctor who found the implant was no where near where it was supposed to be in her body, according to a July 2019 study in BMJ Case Reports.

The implant is sometimes colloquially referred to as 'the rod'. Image: Getty

Prior to this, the woman had two other birth control implants which needed to be replaced after multiple years of use. The doctor implanted the first contraceptive device in 2010 and the third, which she had in place for three years, migrated to her lung in 2017.

Birth control implants are thin rods about the size of a matchstick, according to Planned Parenthood. The contraceptive method functions by slowly releasing the hormone progestin into the user's body, a preferred method by a number of women for its ease and the ability to 'set and forget'.

READ MORE: Why A Three Month Pill Script Might Make You More Likely To Accidentally Fall Pregnant

The hormone acts to thicken the cervical mucus to stop sperm from swimming to an egg to fertilise it. The implant, sometimes colloquially referred to as 'the rod', is inserted by a doctor under the patient's upper arm and can remain here for five years.

Where did the implant go?

When the woman saw her gynecologist, they tried to locate the implant in her bicep but where not able to determine where it was. Following this an ultrasound was completed and it was discovered the implant was not in her arm but in her left lung.

READ MORE: Male Birth Control Is On Its Way, But Would Men Take It?

In order to remove the implant, doctors had no choice but to use video-assisted surgery to find the object and ultimately remove the implant from the woman's chest.

The surgery was completed successfully and the woman was discharged from hospital four days later without suffering any further complications.

Has this happened before?

While it is uncommon for a birth control implant to move elsewhere in the body, other cases of this happening have been recorded. The doctor who treated the woman in this instance reported their finding in a case study they wrote.

There are a number of contraceptive methods on the market include the vaginal ring, intra uterine device, contraceptive implant and a variety of pills. Image: Getty

According to this case study, the birth control implant has the ability to move if the doctor inserts the device too deep into the recipient's arm. Further to this, intense exercise can lead to implant migration.

Doctors reported that a 37-year-old woman’s implant had moved to her lung, in May 2017, believing the implant was inserted too deep and entered her vein and travelled through her body and eventually rested in her lung.

Complications with insertion and removal of subdermal contraceptive implant are rare in the hands of medical professionals familiar with the techniques and device, and these procedures should only be undertaken by those with relevant training.

Fertility Specialist, Gynaecologist, Reproductive Endocrinologist and Clinical Lecturer at Sydney University Dr. Natasha Andreadis told 10 daily she has never seen an implant to go the lungs.

"They can move around the arm on the side of insertion," she said.  "The bottom line is that patients need to be informed of this rare adverse outcome; they should check the position of their implant regularly by feeling for it and alert their doctor if they can’t feel it ASAP."

If you use a birth control implant and you experience abnormal bleeding or your periods are irregular, you should consult a health care professional immediately.

Featured image: Getty