The needles are used to access injection ports, which are devices implanted beneath the skin of patients who require frequent injections. The ports connect to a vein and allow easy delivery of chemotherapy, antibiotics and other injectable drugs.
Huber needles are designed to be non-coring, or to penetrate an injected material without retaining any of it.
However, a monthslong FDA investigation found that the needles can dislodge bits of silicone from the ports, potentially pushing them into the patient's bloodstream. The problem can also damage the ports themselves, resulting in problems delivering drug therapy.
An inspection at a Nipro manufacturing plant in Japan found that 60 to 72 percent of the company's needles had the design problem, according to the FDA.
"The agency's laboratory work helped determine the coring problem, and we will continue to work with manufacturers to address coring issues as quickly and thoroughly as possible," said Dr. Jeffrey Shuren, FDA's director of medical devices.
Huber needles have been approved in the U.S. since 1984, according to the FDA.
FDA officials told reporters Tuesday they are working with 19 other manufacturers to determine if their needles have the same problem. The agency estimates 6 million Huber needles are sold in the U.S. each year.
According to FDA regulatory specialist Mary Brooks there have been no reports of silicone shards in patients, though it may be difficult for doctors to identify the problem.
The FDA made several recommendations to physicians, including: watching for signs of tissue or nerve damage in patients, which could be a sign of damage to their port. The agency also suggested throwing out the first syringe injected into a port, in an effort to discard any bits of silicone.