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Young woman faces open-heart surgery after birth control goes horribly wrong: ‘What if I don’t survive?’

When you think about the common procedure of getting a contraceptive implant, it’s not often associated with open-heart surgery, but for one young Victorian woman, this is an uncomfortable reality.

Cloe Westerway, aged 22, underwent a standard routine procedure to have an Implanon inserted two years ago in a women’s health clinic, but in the following days, things started to take a turn.

Cloe began experiencing heart palpitations, excessive sweating and heartburn symptoms and immediately knew something wasn’t quite right.

When the doctors tried to remove the implant, there was one problem: they couldn’t find it, with subsequent scans revealing the 1.5 inch rod had ventured into her pulmonary artery. 

Australian woman Cloe Westerway, 22, is set to have heart surgery after a contraceptive implant entered her pulmonary artery.
YouTube/7News Australia

“It has gone through my vein through my right ventricle and popped up in my left chamber,” she told Channel 7.

What is an Implanon?

Implanon is a small plastic rod inserted under the skin of the upper arm to prevent pregnancy.

It steadily releases progestogen, a hormone that inhibits ovulation, thickens cervical mucus, and makes the uterine lining less receptive to a fertilized egg.

This long-term contraceptive option can provide protection for up to three years.

One-of-a-kind procedure

Implanon is highly effective as a contraceptive method. When used correctly, it has a success rate of over 99%, making it one of the most reliable forms of birth control available.

Cloe will undergo major surgery to remove the device at Victoria’s Heart Hospital, a procedure never performed before, with the extent of the operation needed unknown until surgeons get started. 

“They may end up just cutting down the middle, which is classified as open-heart surgery,” she explained.

It’s not just the physical aspect that has Cloe concerned; she’s also understandably worried about her mental state in the lead-up.

Doctors made the discovery after Westerway began experiencing heart palpitations.
YouTube/7News Australia

“You know… what if they don’t get it out? What if you know I don’t survive? Or what if more damage happens?” she said.

“It’s pretty terrifying. This hasn’t really happened to anybody else.”

Following the surgery, which can span up to five hours, Cloe will spend up to three days in the ICU before undergoing months of rehab and recovery.

While this is a rare and isolated incident, it’s always important to discuss any and all risks with your doctor when exploring which options are right for you.