CE Marking of medical devices requires technical documentation (i.e., – a Technical File or Design Dossier). One of the requirements of this technical documentation is to establish the risk class of a device in accordance with the classification rules in Annex IX. The requirement to include this classification rationale in the Technical File is not well defined in Article 9, Classification, of the Medical Device Directive (http://bit.ly/M5MDD), but the guidance document for Technical Documentation (http://bit.ly/NBMED251Rec5) clearly defines this requirement in Section 3.2 (viii). Establishing a classification rationale is the first step to establishing the regulatory pathway that will be required to CE Mark your medical device.
What are the Classifications?
There are four different classifications of medical devices in Europe: Class I, Class IIa, Class IIb and Class III. These four classifications are also referred to as “risk class.” The lowest risk classification is Class I, and the highest risk classification is Class III. Class IIa is considered a “medium risk,” while Class IIb is considered a “high risk” medical device. Notified Body involvement and a CE Certificate from the Notified Body is required for almost all medical devices distributed in Europe, however, Class I devices that are non-sterile and do not perform a measurement function do not require Notified Body involvement. Class I devices that are sterile are often referred to as “Class I-S,”but this is not a term used in the Directive. The same is true of “Class I-M” for Class I devices with a measurement function.
Applying the Rules for Medical Device CE Marking
In order to apply the classification rules as defined in Annex IX of the MDD, the following questions must be answered for the device or device family:
- Is the device invasive? – Invasiveness of a device is an important criterion, because non-invasive devices are generally Class I, and there is typically no Notified Body involvement required for these devices.
- Is the device surgically invasive, or invasive with respect to body orifices? If a device is surgically invasive with respect to a body orifice, Rule 5 is the most likely classification rule. For all other devices that are surgically invasive, the duration of use is important
- How long is the device used inside the body? The primary difference between Rules 6, 7 and 8 is the duration of use. In general, permanent implants are subject to Rule 8, and are Class IIb devices. The other surgically invasive devices are generally Class IIa devices. Devices under Rule 6 are for “transient” use (i.e., – intended for continuous use for less than 60 minutes). Devices under Rule 7 are for “short-term” use (i.e., – intended for continuous use for between 60 minutes and 30 days.). There are multiple exceptions to each rule, and these exceptions should all be considered.
- Is the device electrically powered (i.e., – an active device)? Active devices are subject to rules 9, 10, 11 and 12.
- Do any of the “Special Rules” apply? It is recommended to actually start with Rules 13-18 to ensure that one of the special rules do not apply. For example, if you are making blood bags, there is no need to read anything in Annex IX except Rule 18.
Guidance Document for Classification
Annex IX defines the classification rules for Europe, but there is also a guidance document (http://bit.ly/EUClassification) published that helps to explain the classification rules with examples. This guidance document is extremely important, because it provides clarification of rules based upon interpretations that have been made by Competent Authorities with Notified Bodies and companies. For example, critical anatomical locations are defined in Section 3.1.3: “For the purposes of the Directive 93/42/EEC, ‘central circulatory system’ means the following vessels:…”.
When you write a classification rationale for your technical documentation, it is important to reference this document—as well as Annex IX of the MDD. Your rationale should address each of the questions above for applying the classification rules. In addition, your rationale should indicate that none of the “Special Rules” (Rules 13-18) are applicable to your device or device family.
It is possible to have a device family, contained within one Technical File or Design Dossier, that has more than one Classification. For example, you could choose to group a family of vascular grafts together in one Technical File that are permanent implants and non-absorbable. Normally, these devices would be Class IIb in accordance with Rule 8. However, if one or more of the grafts is intended for vessels included in the central circulatory system, then these grafts would be Class III devices. If a graft can be used for either indication, then the higher classification should be applied.
Proposed EU Regulations
On September 26, 2012, the European Commission released a draft proposal for a new medical device regulation. The expected implementation transition period for these proposed regulations is 2015-2017. In Annex II of the proposed regulations (http://bit.ly/EUProposal), it specifies that the risk class and applicable classification rationale shall be documented in the technical documentation. This appears as item 1.1e) under the heading of “Device description and specification.”
The MDD defines the classification rules for medical devices in Annex IX, while in the proposed EU regulations classification, rules are now in Annex VII. The MDD also has 18 rules, while the proposed regulations have 21 rules. In order to download a Gap Analysis of the Classification Rules for CE Marking, please visit the following page on this website: http://bit.ly/gapanalysiscmda.
If you need assistance with medical device CE Marking, or you are interested in training on CE Marking, please contact Medical Device Academy at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Medical Device Academy is developing a webinar series specifically for this purpose. You can also call Rob Packard by phone @ 802.258.1881. For other blogs on the topic of “CE Marking,”please view the following blog category page: http://robertpackard.wpengine.com/category/ce-marking/