Ministry finds no negligence in double-arm transplant recipient’s death

Ministry finds no negligence in double-arm transplant recipient’s death

Doctors of the reconstructive surgery team of Akdeniz University Medical Hospital speak to the press on the death of patient Atilla Kavdır on May 4, 2012. (Photo: AA)

May 17, 2012, Thursday/ 14:57:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

The Ministry of Health has announced that there was no evidence of any malpractice or errors during the surgery on Atilla Kavdır, who died on May 5, only months after undergoing a double-arm transplant.

Following Kavdır's death, the Ministry of Health convened the Composite Tissue Transplant Science Commission to investigate if Kavdır had died because of a mistake during surgery. The commission requested all medical documents related to Kavdır's case and the medical procedures that took place during and after the surgery from Akdeniz University Hospital, where Kavdır underwent the procedure, and listened to the account of Dr. Ömer Özkan, the surgeon who led the team that performed the surgery.

The commission announced in a written statement on Wednesday that there was no evidence of misconduct or mistakes in Kavdır's case that might have led to his death.

“The patient died due to an infection that developed due to the immunosuppressive therapy -- which lowers a person's resistance to infection -- he received after the surgery,” the statement said.

The recipient of Turkey's second double-arm transplant, Kavdır underwent surgery at Akdeniz University Hospital in January. Two arms and one leg were transplanted onto Kavdır, who lost his arms and right leg when he was 11 years old. The limbs were donated by the family of Ahmet Kaya. Kaya had been seriously injured in a train accident in Uşak and declared brain dead in mid-January.

The hospital attempted the world's first triple-limb transplant on Kavdır. But Kavdır's situation saw a setback when his body rejected the transplanted leg, leaving surgeons no choice but to amputate it.

Kavdır was discharged from the hospital 69 days after his surgery. However, he was readmitted to the hospital on April 2 due to a urinary tract infection.

Professor Özkan told the press after his death that “Kavdır was suffering some urinary tract problems. He underwent medical tests, but no problem was detected. We could not detect the cause of the problem at first, but later we thought that the problem might have resulted from a rare fungal infection which generally develops in organ transplant, cancer and AIDS patients. We did not see any evidence that would prove the existence of the fungal infection in the patient's urine culture test [a test to detect and identify organisms, usually bacteria, which may cause a urinary tract infection (UTI)].”

The world's first quadruple-limb transplant recipient, Şevket Çavdar, also died early in February after his transplanted limbs had to be amputated. Doctors at Ankara's Hacettepe University Hospital were forced to amputate both arms and the right leg of the 27 year old due to metabolic failure. Çavdar later died despite what Hacettepe University Hospital said were “extraordinary efforts by 200 doctors and healthcare personnel for 90 hours” to save him.

Controversy on whether the patient's death could have actually been avoided led the Ministry of Health to investigate the case. The ministry later revoked Hacettepe University's license to carry out composite tissue transplantation operations.

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