Navigating the FDA 510k Submission: A Complete Guide

Navigating the complex landscape of medical device regulation in the United States can be challenging, especially for engineers and managers unfamiliar with the FDA's requirements. One crucial aspect of bringing a medical device to market in the U.S. is the FDA 510(k) submission process. This comprehensive guide aims to demystify the 510(k) submission, outlining its significance, eligibility criteria, submission types, the submission process, and offering valuable tips for a successful application. Additionally, we will delve into the eSTAR process for 510(k) applications, highlighting its role in enhancing efficiency.

What is the 510(k)?

The FDA 510(k) is a premarket submission to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that demonstrates a new medical device's substantial equivalence to a legally marketed predicate device. The submission is a pivotal step to gain clearance for marketing the device in the U.S.

Eligibility Criteria for 510(k) Clearance

To be eligible for a 510(k) submission, a medical device must be substantially equivalent to a device that is already legally marketed. The comparison involves similarities in intended use, technological characteristics, and performance.

The Three Types of 510(k) Submission

The Traditional 510(k)

This is the most comprehensive type of submission, suitable for devices without a legally marketed predicate or those with significant technological differences.

The Abbreviated 510(k)

Applicable when there are recognized standards that the device can meet, simplifying the demonstration of substantial equivalence.

The Special 510(k)

Designed for modifications to existing devices with a focus on demonstrating that the changes do not affect safety and effectiveness.

The FDA 510(k) Submission Process

Find Your Predicate Device

Identify a legally marketed predicate device that is similar to yours. This comparison is critical for demonstrating substantial equivalence.

Build a Quality Management System

Establish a robust Quality Management System (QMS) to ensure consistent product quality and compliance with FDA regulations.

Device Test

Conduct necessary tests and studies to validate the safety and efficacy of your device. This includes biocompatibility, software verification, and other relevant assessments.


Prepare and submit your 510(k) application, including detailed information about your device, comparisons to the predicate device, and supporting documentation.

The 510(k) specialty - the "predicate device"

The main difference between MDR and FDA is that in the 510(k) process, a "predicate device" is used as a reference for the safety and performance of the new device. The "predicate device" is a device already on the market, that has significantly comparable technical and clinical similarities - the "substantial equivalence". So the 510(k) process relies substantially on the demonstration and justification for the equivalence of the new device with that "predicate device".

When a predicate device can be identified for a 510(k) submission and the new device is demonstrated to be substantially equivalent to the predicate, the level of required clinical evidence may vary based on the risk classification of the device. The classification (Class I, II, or III) determines the extent to which clinical data are necessary. Here's a general overview:

  1. Class I Devices:

    • Class I devices are considered low to moderate risk.

    • Clinical data may not be required, and substantial equivalence can often be established through non-clinical testing and existing literature.

  2. Class II Devices:

    • Class II devices are moderate-risk devices.

    • Clinical data may be required, but it is often limited to non-pivotal studies or well-established clinical principles.

    • Manufacturers can leverage data from the predicate device to support the 510(k) submission.

  3. Class III Devices:

    • Class III devices are high-risk devices.

    • Clinical data are typically required to demonstrate the safety and effectiveness of the new device.

    • The extent of clinical data may vary based on factors such as the novelty of the device, the availability of alternative treatments, and the level of risk associated with device use.

Even when relying on a predicate device, manufacturers are expected to provide sufficient information to demonstrate that the new device is as safe and effective as the predicate. This includes providing detailed information on device characteristics, design, performance testing, and any modifications made to the device.

5 Tips to Help Your FDA 510(k) Submission

  1. Start Early: Begin the preparation process well in advance to allow for thorough testing, documentation, and potential revisions.

  2. Engage with the FDA: Communicate with the FDA early in the process to seek guidance, clarify uncertainties, and ensure a smoother submission.

  3. Detailed Documentation: Provide comprehensive and clear documentation, including testing protocols, results, and a thorough comparison with the predicate device.

  4. Stay Updated: Keep abreast of FDA guidance, regulations, and any changes that may impact your submission throughout the process.

  5. Work with Experienced Partners: Collaborate with consultants or regulatory affairs professionals with experience in FDA submissions to ensure adherence to requirements.

Start early with preparation of the FDA submission - save time from leaps after the design phase

Successfully achieving a 510(k) application requires careful planning and adherence to regulatory requirements. Here are key considerations for manufacturers to keep in mind from the beginning of the process:

  1. Early Engagement with the FDA:

    • Initiate early communication with the FDA to discuss your device, understand regulatory expectations, and seek guidance on the submission process.

    • Pre-submission meetings can provide valuable insights and help address potential issues before formal submission.

  2. Thorough Understanding of Regulatory Requirements:

    • Develop a comprehensive understanding of the FDA's regulatory requirements, including guidance documents specific to your device type.

    • Stay informed about updates and changes in regulations that may impact the submission process.

  3. Building a Quality Management System (QMS):

    • Establish a robust Quality Management System (QMS) to ensure consistent product quality and compliance with FDA regulations.

    • use either FDA 820 or ISO 13485 for base requirements to your QMS

  4. Identification of Predicate Device:

    • Identify a legally marketed predicate device that is substantially equivalent to your device.

    • The choice of a predicate device is crucial for demonstrating substantial equivalence and should be well-documented.

  5. Clinical Data and Testing:

    • Determine the need for clinical data based on the risk class of your device.

    • Conduct necessary testing and studies to validate the safety and performance of your device.

    • Ensure that testing protocols are well-documented and adhere to recognised standards.

    • Take into account what is available from the predicate device.

    • Clinical data must have been validated with US patients!

  6. Documentation Preparation:

    • Start preparing detailed documentation early in the development process.

    • Document the design and development activities, risk assessments, testing results, and any modifications made to the device --> you do not want to do it after that phase!

  7. Risk Management and Mitigation:

    • Implement a robust risk management process to identify, assess, and mitigate risks associated with your device.

    • Clearly demonstrate how risk mitigation measures are integrated into the design and manufacturing processes.

    • If you have software that is connected to the internet, cyber risk analysis has to be proven to FDA, too

  8. Realistic Timelines and Resources:

    • Establish realistic timelines for the submission process, considering the time required for testing, documentation, and potential revisions.

    • Allocate sufficient resources, including personnel and expertise, to support the submission activities.

  9. FDA eSubmitter and eSTAR:

    • Familiarize yourself with FDA eSubmitter, a tool for electronic submissions, and consider using it for preparing your submission.

    • Explore the eSTAR (Electronic Submission Template and Resource) process to leverage a standardized template and digital platform.

  10. Stay Updated on FDA Guidance:

    • Regularly check for updates to FDA guidance documents relevant to your device.

    • Attend FDA workshops, webinars, or training sessions to stay informed about best practices and expectations.

  11. Consideration of Post-Market Requirements:

By incorporating these considerations from the beginning of the product development process, manufacturers can enhance their chances of a successful 510(k) application and navigate the regulatory landscape more effectively.

FDA supports manufacturers - so engage!

Other than notified bodies, the FDA offers several resources and support mechanisms to assist manufacturers in the FDA 510(k) application process. These initiatives are designed to facilitate communication, provide guidance, and enhance the efficiency of the submission process. Here are some of the key actions and support options available:

  1. Pre-Submission Meetings:

    • Manufacturers can request pre-submission meetings with the FDA to discuss their 510(k) application before formal submission.

    • These meetings allow manufacturers to seek clarification on regulatory requirements, discuss specific concerns, and gain insights into the FDA's expectations.

  2. Guidance Documents:

    • The FDA issues guidance documents that provide detailed information on various aspects of the 510(k) submission process.

    • These documents cover topics such as the content and format of submissions, specific device types, and regulatory expectations.

  3. Interactive Review:

    • The FDA offers an Interactive Review program to enhance communication between manufacturers and the regulatory agency during the review process.

    • This program allows for real-time communication and clarification of issues, potentially speeding up the review timeline.

  4. FDA eSubmitter:

    • FDA eSubmitter is an electronic submission tool provided by the FDA to assist manufacturers in preparing and submitting regulatory documents, including 510(k) applications.

    • It offers a user-friendly interface and standardized templates to streamline the submission process.

  5. eSTAR (Electronic Submission Template and Resource):

    • eSTAR is a digital initiative introduced by the FDA to standardize and improve the efficiency of the 510(k) submission process.

    • It provides a digital platform with a standardized template, facilitating real-time collaboration and enhancing traceability.

    • Basically the template works like a pdf form - changes are still frequent so beware of "eSTAR templates" that are not supplied by the FDA.

    • As of October 1, 2023, all 510(k) submissions, unless exempted*, must be submitted as electronic submissions using eSTAR.

  6. FDA's 510(k) Modernization Efforts:

    • The FDA has been actively working on modernizing the 510(k) program to make it more effective and responsive to technological advancements.

    • Continuous updates and improvements aim to enhance the predictability, efficiency, and consistency of the review process.

  7. Dedicated Support Centers:

    • The FDA has specific centers and offices, such as the Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH), which focus on medical device regulation.

    • Manufacturers can reach out to these centers for guidance, information, and support throughout the 510(k) application process.

  8. Training and Educational Programs:

    • The FDA conducts training sessions, webinars, and educational programs to help manufacturers understand regulatory requirements and navigate the submission process.

    • These initiatives aim to improve overall compliance and facilitate successful submissions.

  9. FDA Recognized Consensus Standards:

    • The FDA maintains a list of recognized consensus standards that manufacturers can use to demonstrate substantial equivalence, streamlining the submission process.

    • Following recognized standards can provide a common ground for the assessment of safety and effectiveness.

Manufacturers are encouraged to proactively engage with the FDA, utilize available guidance documents, and take advantage of support programs to enhance their understanding of regulatory requirements and improve the quality of their 510(k) submissions.

Detailed documentation - however what needs to be in?

A 510(k) submission to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires detailed documentation to demonstrate the substantial equivalence of the new medical device to a legally marketed predicate device. The submission documentation should be thorough, well-organized, and adhere to FDA guidelines. Here are key details that are typically required in the submission documentation for a 510(k) application:

  1. Cover Letter:

    • A cover letter introducing the submission, including the applicant's contact information, a brief device description, and a summary of the intended use.

  2. Table of Contents:

    • A detailed table of contents outlining the structure and organization of the submission.

  3. Indications for Use:

    • A clear and concise statement of the device's intended use, including indications for use and any limitations.

  4. Device Description:

    • Detailed information about the device, its components, materials, design features, and specifications.

  5. Substantial Equivalence Discussion:

    • A comprehensive discussion comparing the new device to the predicate device in terms of intended use, technological characteristics, and performance.

  6. Performance Data:

    • Test data demonstrating the safety and effectiveness of the device, including results from biocompatibility testing, software verification, and any relevant performance testing.

  7. Labeling:

    • Copies of the proposed labeling, including instructions for use, warnings, precautions, and any other information provided to the end user.

  8. Proposed Labeling for Use in the U.S.:

    • If the device has different labeling for U.S. use, provide the proposed U.S.-specific labeling.

  9. Summary of Biocompatibility Testing:

    • A summary of biocompatibility testing data, including test methods, results, and conclusions.

  10. Software Information:

    • Information on the software components of the device, including verification and validation activities, and compliance with relevant standards.

  11. Sterilization and Shelf Life:

    • Details on sterilization methods used and information on the device's shelf life.

  12. Summary of Clinical Data:

    • If applicable, a summary of clinical data supporting the safety and effectiveness of the device.

  13. Comparative Performance Data:

    • Comparative performance data demonstrating that any differences between the new device and the predicate device do not affect safety and effectiveness.

  14. Device Specifications:

    • Detailed specifications of the device, including drawings, schematics, and manufacturing processes.

  15. Quality Management System (QMS):

    • Information on the manufacturer's QMS, including how it ensures the quality and consistency of the device.

  16. Financial Certification or Disclosure:

    • A financial certification or disclosure of any payments, fees, or compensation made or promised to any person in connection with the submission.

  17. Declaration of Conformity:

    • A declaration of conformity to any applicable recognized standards.

  18. Additional Information:

    • Any additional information requested by the FDA or necessary to support the submission.

It's important to note that the specific requirements may vary based on the type of device and other factors. Manufacturers should refer to FDA guidance documents and follow the applicable regulations to ensure a comprehensive and compliant 510(k) submission. Additionally, staying informed about any updates or changes to FDA requirements is crucial during the submission process. 
To ease the process of determining the right information and a good level of information detail, existing FDA submissions can be used, as well as feedback from the FDA via their supporting engagement initiatives.

Updates regarding FDA and medical device relevant regulations

Manufacturers can stay updated on changes to regulations relevant for 510(k) submissions through various channels and resources. Here are some effective ways to receive updates:

  1. FDA Website:

  2. FDA Email Subscriptions:

    • The FDA offers email subscription services where manufacturers can sign up to receive notifications, newsletters, and updates related to medical device regulations. This allows for timely information delivery directly to your inbox.

  3. FDA Guidance Documents:

    • Guidance documents provide detailed information on regulatory requirements and expectations. Manufacturers should regularly review and monitor the FDA's Guidance Documents webpage for any new or updated documents relevant to 510(k) submissions.

  4. Federal Register Notices:

    • The Federal Register is the official daily publication for rules, proposed rules, and notices of federal agencies. Manufacturers can monitor the Federal Register for any notices related to changes in medical device regulations or new guidance.

  5. Industry Associations and Organizations:

    • Joining industry associations and organizations related to medical devices can provide valuable insights and updates. These groups often disseminate information about regulatory changes, host webinars, and provide resources to their members.

  6. Webinars and Workshops:

    • The FDA frequently conducts webinars, workshops, and training sessions on various aspects of medical device regulations. Manufacturers can participate in these events to gain in-depth knowledge and receive updates directly from FDA experts.

  7. Regulatory News Websites:

    • Several online platforms and news websites focus on regulatory updates in the healthcare and medical device industry. Monitoring these sources can provide manufacturers with timely information on changes in regulations.

  8. FDA Public Meetings:

    • The FDA holds public meetings and advisory committee meetings to discuss regulatory matters. Manufacturers can attend these meetings or review the transcripts to stay informed about discussions that may impact regulations.

  9. Consulting Services:

    • Engaging with regulatory consulting services that specialize in medical devices can be beneficial. These consultants often stay abreast of regulatory changes and can provide tailored advice to manufacturers. You can find some of these on our partner website.

  10. Networking with Regulatory Experts:

    • Building a network with regulatory experts and professionals in the industry can be valuable. Attend conferences, seminars, and industry events to connect with experts who can share insights and updates. An example for such organisations is RAPS - the Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society.

  11. Professional Journals and Publications:

    • Subscribe to and regularly read professional journals and publications in the field of medical devices. These sources often publish articles and analyses on regulatory changes.

By leveraging a combination of these resources and staying actively engaged with the FDA and the broader industry, manufacturers can ensure they are well-informed about any changes in regulations that may impact their 510(k) submissions.

Work with experienced partners - and use digital tools like Matrix Requirements for FDA 510(k) Submission

For an efficient and streamlined FDA 510(k) submission process, Matrix Requirements offers a comprehensive solution.  MatrixRequirements provides a digital platform that supports the development of quality management systems and enhances the overall efficiency of the submission process. Their toolset facilitates the creation of detailed technical documentation, risk analysis, and traceability, ensuring compliance with FDA regulations.

With Matrix Requirement's eQMS and eTD platform, you can reuse information and documentation to allow conformity with MDR and FDA regulation. By marking content and documents for use with various regulations, regulatory affairs managers are supported in creation of the submission documentation also for FDA. However, the eSTAR submission template will still have to be filled manually since an interface could not yet be created do to the frequent changes of that template.

Customers of Matrix Requirements have already successfully mastered 510(k) submissions.

About the Author
Regina Preysing
Partnerships Manager