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Patients urged to get tested after latest body parts scandal

Sep 1, 2006 | AP

For the second time in a year, people who received tendons, cartilage and other parts from donated cadavers are being urged to get tested for hepatitis and the AIDS virus because of scandals involving tissue suppliers.

How much risk do they face?

Answering that is tough because federal officials will not say how many people around the country had already received tissue by the time recalls were announced. Or which types of tissue were involved and how it was treated.

Patients may not even be aware they received cadaver tissue, which is used for everything from back surgery to dental implants. Not all doctors even tell their patients they'll be getting donated human tissue. Doctors themselves often don't know where the tissue came from especially because it often is procured, tested and treated by different companies.

However, two steps can give patients a good idea of their potential risks, experts say:

  • Pressing your doctor for details on the companies that supplied your tissue and whether any are involved in the recalls.
  • Getting the infectious disease tests that health officials recommend HIV, hepatitis B and C, and syphilis.

"If they're six months out (from the transplant) and they test negative, they don't have to worry," said Dr. L. Clifford McDonald, an infectious disease specialist at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Chances are good that an infection would have taken hold by then, or at least shown up in blood tests, he said.

On Aug. 18, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration shut down Philip Guyett Jr. and Donor Referral Services of Raleigh, N.C., citing "serious deficiencies" in manufacturing practices. In some cases, records did not match what official death certificates showed and left out details like a donor's history of cancer or drug use that may have made the donor's tissue ineligible for transplant, the FDA's order says.

On Wednesday, the FDA urged doctors to contact patients who received tissue from the firm, saying that additional information from the ongoing investigation "has heightened our concern" about the situation.

Companies voluntarily recalling tissues supplied by the Raleigh firm are Alamo Tissue Services of San Antonio, Texas; Lost Mountain Tissue Bank of Kennesaw, Ga.; TissueNet of Orlando, Fla.; and US Tissue and Cell of Cincinnati, Ohio. (AlloSource of Centennial, Colo., which acquired some of US Tissue's assets in March, is handling US Tissue's recall).

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