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Surgical Clips Linked to Kidney Donor Deaths

Laura Hosford-Yunker4 years ago

Medical personnel are raising concerns about the misuse of surgical clips during kidney transplant surgeries. At least 5 people have died in surgeries when the clips were used. An ABC news affiliate in Denver recently ran a story outlining the risks and the controversy, focusing on the story of a woman who died from internal bleeding after donating a kidney at a Texas hospital.

Kidney Donation Surgery Overview

  • Kidney donor surgery is considered to be very safe- in 2010, 6,276 people donated a kidney, and none of them died within 30 days of the surgery.
  • To remove a kidney for donation, surgeons have to cut the renal artery and then close it back up again or the patient will bleed to death.
  • There are various ways to close the artery. Many surgeons use staples, but some use tiny surgical clips to close it.
  • These clips are considered safe to use in many types of surgeries, but not laparoscopic kidney donor surgeries because the clips can slip off the artery and lead to internal bleeding.
  • Between 2001-2008, five people have died as a result of kidney removal surgeries in which the clips were used; another 11 were injured (according to the news article).

Use of Teleflex Surgical Clips in Transplant Surgeries

  • Starting in 2004, transplant surgeons began raising concerns about using surgical clips in kidney donors.
  • In 2006, Teleflex, the manufacturer of the clips, sent warning letters alerting hospitals that their surgical clips were unsuitable for kidney surgeries.
  • Medical institutions have reported getting the letters, but have said they did not go far enough in warning against use of the clips in kidney surgeries.
  • The clip packaging itself also has a warning symbol advising doctors to look at the instructions that come with the clips, but the instructions are typically not kept in operating rooms, according to surgeons quoted in the news article.
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