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Are hospitals forgetting important warnings about surgical clips?

According to statistics, more than 6,200 people had undergone surgery in Illinois and throughout the entire U.S. to donate kidneys in 2010. None of the kidney donor patients had died from the procedures within a month of having surgery. With these success stories in mind, one woman believed that she could help save her brother’s life last year by donating her kidney. She surely didn’t anticipate that her life would be compromised by doing so.

Although there have been thousands of successful laparoscopic surgeries performed in the U.S. over the past few years, these surgeries have only been successful because they were performed correctly. When donating a kidney, a patient could quickly suffer fatal injuries after any type of surgical error during the removal of the organ. In the woman’s case who had donated her kidney for her brother, a surgeon had failed to correctly close one of the woman’s arteries after removing the kidney. The patient bled to death.

The woman’s family has since settled their medical malpractice lawsuit with the hospital where the surgery had been performed. But the incident has raised many concerns amongst patients and the medical community since the patient’s wrongful death could have been prevented.

After the woman’s death, it was discovered that the hospital had failed to warn surgeons not to use surgical clips to close off arteries after laparoscopic kidney donor surgeries because the clips could easily slip off. Instead, surgeons are advised to use staples.

Several warning letters about the dangers of using surgical clips for kidney surgeries had been sent to hospitals throughout the entire U.S. in 2006. However, the hospital where the woman had her surgery performed had not been using the clips at that time. When the hospital did start using the clips years after warning letters had been sent, the facility forgot entirely about the dangers of using the clips during kidney surgeries. The hospital later admitted that it did not have sufficient procedures in place to track warnings about medical equipment and devices.

The woman’s death was the result of a very rare surgical error. However, the incident is certainly concerning. Could other hospitals be using their products incorrectly? Have other hospitals forgotten about important warning letters?

Source: CNN, “Kidney-donor deaths linked to surgical clips raise issues of alerts, warnings,” John Bonifield and Elizabeth Cohen, June 21, 2012


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