Every year, thousands of people in Ohio and the rest of the nation make the selfless decision to donate a kidney to a friend or relative who is in need. Typically, these kidney donors get through the process with little more than a scar. However, if surgical negligence is involved, kidney donors are at serious risk.
Last year, a 41-year-old woman was overjoyed to learn that she would be able to donate a kidney to her brother, who suffered from a deadly kidney disease. The woman’s laparoscopic surgery appeared to go well, but after 30 minutes in the recovery room, it was clear that something horrible was happening.
Surgeons immediately cut the woman back open and found that blood was pooling in her abdomen. The woman died from the sudden internal bleeding. Soon, it was discovered that the tiny surgical clips used to secure a major artery had come loose, allowing the blood to pour out.
In laparoscopic kidney donor surgeries, the renal artery, which supplies the kidneys with blood, must be severed and then properly secured. Surgeons leave only a tiny bit of the artery, and the surgical clips can easily slip off. That is why hospitals are warned that the surgical clips are not safe for laparoscopic kidney donor surgeries.
Even so, at least five deaths have occurred for this same reason, which is why some transplant surgeons think better warnings are needed. One surgeon has been advocating for warning labels to be placed right on the clips since 2004. Currently, the warning can only be found on a set of instructions that come with the tool used to apply the clips.
In 2006, the manufacturer also began sending letters to hospitals warning them that the clips should not be used in laparoscopic kidney donor surgeries. In fact, the hospital where the 41-year-old woman died received the letters in 2006, but by the time the hospital began ordering the clips years later, the letters had been forgotten.
The hospital and the woman’s family recently settled a medical malpractice lawsuit for an unspecified amount. However, more than anything, the family wishes they could have their loved one back.
Source: CNN, “Kidney-donor deaths linked to surgical clips raise issues of alerts, warnings,” John Bonifield and Elizabeth Cohen, June 21, 2012