Getting and losing an implantable magnet: things you should know

This is a must read for anyone who wants to get, or maybe already has, a magnet implant that is getting old. I’ll share a few personal insights, but also some practical information.

My 2 removed magnets in a plastic bag

Just a few days ago in a Las Vegas hotel room, I had my beloved hand magnets (2 of them) removed. The procedure was done as professionally as humanly possible, using proper medical equipment, on top of the tiny hotel suite table. Just 3 years prior the same person had put one in my finger, and about 8 years prior, someone else implanted one in the side of my hand. The fingertip magnet had an epoxy, non binding coating and was small and flat. The side of my hand had a parylene coating, and was a 3mm cylinder.

Having magnets was a delight. Its a fun as heck party trick. I could lift up small Canadian coins (they are ferrous), bottle caps, electrical components, needles. Once, at a beach, I discovered the sand was littered with iron filings. It changed the way I experienced the world. When cooking, I felt a familiar buzz of my stove. I used it to fix my fair share of things, I could always tell if the outlet my laptop was plugged into was working by feeling the wall plug. I really loved it. I loved feeling my hard drive buzz in my fingertips as I typed on my laptop.

I’m calling this sense of loss “Magnet Morbs”, the feeling of sad loss about loosing my magnetic senses. But there are reasons I did it, and I don’t feel like they are talked about enough.

  1. Placement
    I had 2 magnets, the one on my fingertip really got in the way of a lot of things. Especially working out. I ended up pushing my magnet very far down the side of my finger so I could rock climb. Even then, I would periodically worry about squishing it and found I was not giving climbing my all because I was scared. I have heard similar things about weight lifting, guitar playing, and other finger intensive activities. Although the fingertip is the most sensitive, it also got in the way a lot. Sometimes the magnet would flip around too, more on that in the next section. The magnet in the side of my hand didn’t feel much, even though it was a lot bigger. It could lift more, but very little sensation.
  2. Materials and age
    The first magnet I had in the side of my hand was a parylene coating. At the time, it was pretty cool and new. I was told it would bond to my skin and hold it in place. I didn’t realize the implications of this FULLY until I started to consider removal. Parylene is in fact a medical and implant rated coating, but it is subject to corrosion after some years. Also, the magnet is not physically protected from impact like glass coatings. I don’t know if it wasn’t really known at the time, or if I didn’t have fully informed consent. The coating can form a small crack, which can quickly make it swell up. This can happen suddenly and usually around the 8–10 year mark.My finger magnet did not bind to my skin. This was great for removal, and great for moving it around my finger depending what I was doing. But sometimes it would flip around, because its as flat. I would periodically grab something and it would just spin, it was honestly a horrible and weird feeling I never got used to.I’ve been told bonding can happen with glass ones too, but most of my older glass implants can still be moved around to some degree. its a risk, it really depends on your body, nothing is for sure, and you should be prepared for either outcome. Any material can fail at any time.
  3. Random pains and fears
    The entire time I had my magnet I would get random little pains. I tried to think if they were real or just paranoia, but also, I think its important to understand that this CAN in fact add an extra layer of paranoia to your brain. I do think the pains are real, I’ve had others confirm. They are dull aches that are mostly unremarkable, but just make you wonder if its about to burst. I’ve also heard many stories of people getting very worried, having them emergency removed, only to find out that nothing bad had happened. I think this is a very normal and human response that anyone can have.

For the record, I do NOT get these pains with my RFID glass implants.

Reality of magnet removal

I had my first magnet put in with a needle because I was scared of incisions. That was a long time ago, and I’d no longer be scared of that, but the point is, they go in way too easily. Especially if its old and parylene or anything that might bond to your skin, but this CAN happen with glass implants too. Skin can bond and scar tissue can form around it, which means it can’t just be squeezed out. It has to be cut out, and bonded tissue removed.

You need to have a removal plan before it goes in. My removal was much, much more traumatic that insertion. It involved lots of emotional support and a very patient and determined human with real medical training. I have a significant wound and stitches that require real care, which was not the case when I had it installed.

Once my mag came out, I could see there was nothing wrong with it. However, I spoke to someone earlier that day who told me they had a similar one that was even older than mine that had randomly swelled up and corroded. The older it gets, the higher chance it will fail randomly.

If your magnet gets exposed inside you, a few things will happen. First, it will swell up a bit. You’ll noticed higher degree of discomfort. Over time, you may experience discolouration, you can also experience other side effects as your body breaks it down. You could possibly get an infection or necrotic tissue. It might not to be easy to get an appointment with someone capable to remove it. You should consider cost (depending where you live), access to medical care, access to the person who put it in, etc. A big factor in my removal was not being sure when I’d have access to that again. I had multiple surgeons tell me they wouldn’t remove it and to go back to where I got it done. I’ve also had some implants removed in about 3 minutes with only a small wound. The point is, your millage may vary. Its important to understand the possibilities.

I don’t at all regret getting one, it was amazing, but I think understanding the full lifecycle of any implant is critical. For myself, only glass implants going forward. But removal can still be pretty brutal, and there are all kinds of unexpected failure modes. Glass can crack, there have been incidents of glass magnets also just randomly getting broken or exposed. I had issues in Canada getting a surgeon to take mine out, and basically had no other choice than to go other routes. I know they go in easily, but having a full understanding of removal and plans is really critical before getting one.

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