Surgical clips, stents, implants: what you should know if you have one

This post previously appeared on Medium.

The long and the short of it

I’ve written a lengthy article about possible complications of sterilization. I realize this may be a bit too lengthy for some. Also, I’ve been in touch with someone who has complications from gallbladder surgery, a procedure that is done with more than a handful of surgical clips.

So here’s a short summary, encompassing not just sterilization clips, but any clip in general, stents as well as implants in general. Everything I write below is either proven science or backed by case studies.

Migration

  • Clips and stents are known to migrate. For sterilization clips, in more than 25% of cases, they end up somewhere else in the body. For stents, this is estimated to be 20%. The device can travel through your body and cause pain or illness.
  • Migrated stents can cause a bowel perforation.

Foreign body reaction

  • The body can respond to stents, clips and implants with a foreign body response. This includes hip implants, implants to fixate broken bones and dental work.
  • Clips, stents and implants can cause pain, varying from a dull ache to a stabbing pain.

Infections, abscesses

  • Any clip, stent or implant can become infected.
  • An abscess can form around the device.
  • Symptoms of an abscess can be very vague, ranging from fatigue to nausea or, in the case of sterilization, changed vaginal discharge or changes in menstrual cycle/bleeding.
  • Abscesses don’t develop overnight: You can have an abscess for a very long period of time, think years. Especially because the symptoms are vague, it can take a long time before the cause is identified.

Allergies and autoimmune disease

  • You can be allergic to the materials in a surgical clip or stent. Metal allergies and silicone allergies are found in case studies and are now widely acknowledged.
  • Autoimmune diseases can be triggered by clips, stents or implants. It is called ASIA syndrome.

Breakage

  • A clip, stent or implant can break.
  • A broken clip or stent can increase your risk of bowel perforation or arterial perforation.
  • In the case of breast implants, they can rupture and leak. The silicone or other material will come in your blood stream and can make you very sick. (But even without rupture, you can be very sick from the tiny particles coming off the implant.)

Other

  • If you’ve had a procedure done more than 2 years ago, you can still develop complications. (If there’s anything you remember from this article, let it be this one.)
  • Clips and stents can mess up your MRI scans. Often they become an ‘artifact’, distorting the area around them. “They’re not magnetic so you can have a scan done!” is a lie by omission.

Individual risk

  • If you have a history of (childhood) trauma, your risk of having health issues is higher. Risk assessment should be on an individual basis and not just about the probability in the general population.
  • If there are allergies of any kind in your family, your risk of an allergic reaction is higher. Same for autoimmune diseases.

Explant / clip removal

  • Breast implant illness is an acknowledged diagnosis. Removal is more well known and among possibilities for women suffering from this.
  • Clip and stent removal is difficult to achieve. Healthcare providers are hesitant to attribute illness to clips or stents, because removal procedures can be complicated and some require open surgery. This brings with it a risk of new complications. Healthcare providers want absolute irrefutable proof that the clip or stent is at fault. Their patient telling them their feelings and subjective experience often doesn’t count, alas.
  • If you have a clip removal procedure: If a clip has migrated and they find out during surgery, your doctor can’t ask your opinion. Often, they decide not to search for it. Before having the procedure to remove a clip done, having an X-ray done to determine if the clips are where they were originally placed, and explicitly discussing with your doctor what you want them to do with migrated clips.
  • If you are having a tubal ligation reversal, pay extra attention to clip migration! Doctors are working on the reversal and I’ve heard more than one story of doctors not being able to find the clips and just leaving them in there. Again, discuss it beforehand with your doctor.
  • Other implants are rarely removed, unless your healthcare provider agrees that the implant is the cause for your illness. Not all illnesses can be measured with scans or blood tests, and this may mean that your healthcare provider decides that your implant is not to blame.

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