Panacryl sutures are a type of stitch that is supposed to be absorbed by the body after surgery, but in Kaplan's case, and many others, they allegedly caused a very nasty infection and an additional surgery was necessary to remove the infected sutures.
"As soon as I left the hospital I got sick," said Kaplan. "I had a fever and severe abdominal pain. I managed to get to the doctor and he asked if I had any allergies. He went over the surgical reports and found that Panacryl sutures had been used. Three surgeons confirmed that Panacryl sutures were used and I now have it in writing. At first, I thought that the doctors had messed up the whole operation. But I later found out they weren't to blame. One of the doctors explained that everything was sewn up after the gallbladder but the sutures started to unravel and caused leaks (from the sutures) into my stomach. What a mess.
After that I had to go back in for a roux-en-y surgery -- they had to bypass the gallbladder operation and bring the large intestine up to my liver. I felt helpless and my situation seemed useless. I had this infection that would not go away -- I was on strong antibiotics but nothing helped until the second surgery. When I had the second surgery three months later, the sutures were removed. But it was a long road to recovery.
It took a long time to recover from these surgeries -- I was home sick for almost a year. I couldn't get out of bed I was so sick and the pain was unbearable. I was about to go to pain management. I was taking percosets four or five times a day to ease the pain. I'm 56 years old and had a clean bill of health until this happened.
When I first thought it was malpractice, I actually withheld payment to one of the surgeons, thinking that he had botched the gallbladder operation. But then we found out that it was due to the sutures. My surgeon wrote a letter to Signa Insurance stating that Panacryl sutures were used and resulted in the need for my second surgery.
Right after the surgeon told me about Panacryl sutures causing the infection, I phoned the Panacryl makers -- Ethicon Inc., a division of Johnson & Johnson, and they blew me off. I finally spoke to a customer service representative who told me that my infection from surgery had nothing to do with the sutures -- they were fine.
Then I went online and did some research. Ethicon should fess up to what they did and tell the truth. I heard that one hospital filed bankruptcy -- they were using this product so much that they couldn't pay up all the malpractice suits from these operations. They had too many malpractice judgments against them and just closed the hospital.
Although a recall was issued in 2005, many of the contaminated sutures had been used in surgeries and many caused severe postoperative infections such as Kaplan experienced. According to the FDA, only 25 percent of the recalled sutures were recovered.
Ethicon Inc., the makers of Panacryl sutures, is a subsidiary company of Johnson & Johnson. In 1994, Ethicon had a problem sterilizing their Vicryl sutures and sent millions of contaminated sutures out to the medical community. They were recalled but in such a way that many doctors had no knowledge of the recall.
Is history repeating itself? Ethicon makes about 80 percent of all medical sutures used in our operations. Every single suture in any surgery must be sterile. If they are not sterile, it can cause all kinds of problems such as postoperative infections and possibly additional surgeries.