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FMEA in medical devices can work better when mated with ISO 14971

Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA) is a core aspect of risk management and risk analysis in medical devices. FMEA is essentially about analyzing the reasons for which a problem arises and the effects it has on the system. In the field of medical devices, it is absolutely critical to understand the failure mode and effects because the consequences of not doing this can be disastrous and many times, even fatal.

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Required, but not clear about the steps

The FDA only broadly states that risk management has to be built into the manufacturing process. This leaves medical device manufacturers in a kind of quandary, because although the FDA is clear about the requirement for risk management; there is no clear-cut guideline on how this needs to be carried out. This leaves the implementation of FMEA in medical devices something that is at the discretion of the medical device company.

The FDA’s Final Rule on cGMP Quality System Regulation (QSR) is, to quote its own words, “less prescriptive and gives the manufacturer the flexibility to determine the controls that are necessary to be commensurate with risk” ( In other words, there is no specific guideline on risk management, using which medical device manufacturers can decide the ways and processes of implementing risk management. The guideline is all the more vague about risk analysis approaches and procedures like FMEA.

Complementarity with ISO 14971Since the guidelines on medical devices FMEA are rather general medical device companies that implement FMEA have to go by a buzzword: implementing FMEA at every level. In this regard, they can work complementarily with ISO 14971, whose guidelines relate to risk management.

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