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FDA Issues Alert About Surgical Staplers and Implantable Surgical Staples

41,000+ Medical Device Reports of Deaths, Serious Injuries, and Malfunctions in 7 Years

The FDA has issued a Letter to Health Care Providers to alert them that the agency is aware of an increasing number of medical device reports associated with the use of surgical staplers for internal use and implantable surgical staples—common devices used in many surgeries—and to provide updated recommendations to help reduce risks associated with their use. The letter also includes information about additional actions the agency is planning in the coming months to address the devices’ safety, including issuing a draft guidance with labeling recommendations for manufacturers and holding a public advisory committee meeting to discuss whether the current pathway for manufacturers to market surgical staplers for internal use is appropriate.

The agency has issued previous communications about the risks involved with surgical staplers and implantable staples and has been conducting an ongoing assessment of medical device reports (MDRs) filed with the agency. The agency’s analysis shows that from January 1, 2011 to March 31, 2018, the FDA received more than 41,000 individual MDRs for surgical staplers and staples for internal use, including 366 deaths, more than 9,000 serious injuries, and more than 32,000 malfunctions. The FDA continues to evaluate the MDRs for these devices.

The most commonly reported problems in these adverse event reports include an opening of the staple line or malformation of staples, misfiring, difficulty in firing, failure of the stapler to fire the staple, and misapplied staples (e.g., user applying staples to the wrong tissue or applying staples of the wrong size to the tissue). Stapler and/or staple malfunctions or misuse may result in prolonged surgical procedures or unplanned, additional surgical interventions, which may lead to other complications such as bleeding, sepsis, tearing of internal tissues and organs, increased risk of cancer recurrence, and death.

In today’s communication, the FDA is reminding providers to review labeling instructions and indications for use for surgical staplers and implantable staples, such as choosing the appropriate staple size for the patient’s tissue type and thickness. The letter to health care providers also suggests considering alternative options if the patient’s tissues are swollen, prone to bleeding, or necrotic. The FDA is also providing recommendations on how to recognize and manage device malfunction.

Source: FDA, March 8, 2019

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