Removal of contraceptive implants (e.g. Norplant) is an issue affecting its worldwide acceptability. Reports of difficult, painful removals have resulted in lawsuits and reduced demand. To improve quality of care, we developed a scoring system to anticipate difficult removals. We report on the usefulness of such a system and present client perspectives about the removal experience.
A 9-point scoring system based on the visibility, arrangement, and position (VAP) of Norplant capsules was used to assess the anticipated difficulty of removal in 53 consecutive patients. The VAP score was then correlated with removal time and related parameters.
Mean removal time was 14.74 min (range 4.75–47). In 20% of patients, the VAP score indicated a potentially difficult removal and the VAP score correlated significantly with removal time (r=0.3,p=0.05). Patients expected removal to be moderately difficult (mean visual analog score 4.7 out of a possible 10), but after removal they rated the actual removal experience as relatively easy (mean score 2.6/10). Before the removal, only 48% of patients said they would recommend Norplant to a friend but after removal, 70% said they would do so.
A scoring system such as the VAP score can help identify potentially difficult removals so that an experienced remover can be present at the time of removal or an appropriate referral made. However, the VAP score cannot predict variables such as the density of the subcutaneous fibrous tissue ‘envelope’. Although patient anxiety concerning removal may be high, the presence of a competent remover and an easy removal experience reduces this anxiety and encourages patients to be more positive about this method. The value of having properly trained, competent personnel available to perform removals cannot be over-emphasized.