“Angela” (not her real name) had the Essure contraceptive device implanted in her Fallopian tubes in 2009. At the time, it seemed like a miracle. Just two small, spring-like coils, made from nickel, that could be implanted without surgery – all she had to do is head over to her gynecologist's office, and the whole procedure was done within an hour. Over the next few weeks, scar tissue would start building up around the coils, which would hold the devices in place and prevent eggs from descending into the uterus, thus preventing fertilization.
It didn't work out that way.
Within days, Angie was experiencing severe back pain as well as unusual bleeding. After two years of suffering, her doctor found that one of her coils had fallen out of place and into her uterus. The other had curled up into a tiny ball of metal, and had come part way out of her Fallopian tube. She soon discovered that pulling the Essure coils out was far more difficult and complicated than inserting them. She had to undergo surgery in order to remove them – but the problems didn't end there. Even after her surgery, she experienced a number of health problems. When her primary care physician finally ordered x-rays of her pelvic region, the images showed numerous particles lodged throughout her abdominal cavity.
Angie wound up undergoing a complete hysterectomy, followed by two additional surgeries. Recovery required over a year. Despite the surgeries, she continues to suffer chronic pain throughout her body, including intense headaches due to metal poisoning.
The unfortunate fact is that while there is a great deal of information on the Essure device itself, there is little scientific or medical guidance when it comes to removal. The Essure is prone to breakage during the removal process, leaving tiny metal bits that migrate in the bloodstream, traveling to other organs and causing perforations.
Even one small fragment can cause serious health issues – including sepsis, a potentially life-threatening bacterial infection that can require emergency treatment. Shockingly, many ER physicians are not even aware of what the Essure device is. According to the administrator of a Facebook page known as “Essure Problems,” ER doctors are often forced to look the information up online.
Meanwhile, what does Essure manufacturer Bayer have to say about it? Only that “physicians must use their sound clinical judgment to determine the best approach for each individual patient,” according to the Patient Information booklet included with the product. Dr. Shawn Tassone, a gynecologist based in Austin, Texas, has removed at least 200 of the devices from women – but acknowledges that there is “no good data that shows you what the best method would be to remove it.” He says, “Right now it's through case management, and doing a bunch of them, and coming up with a system that seems to have worked” – in other words, trial and error.
So much for Bayer's claims that Essure is a “permanent, non-surgical method” of contraception.