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Simpson Leaves His Cell for Surgery : Tests: Three unmarked cars make up early morning motorcade to Cedars-Sinai. Swollen lymph nodes in suspect’s armpit are removed for a biopsy.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In a pre-dawn move described as “very rare,” accused double murderer O.J. Simpson was moved Thursday to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where he underwent minor surgery before being taken back to his cell in the Men’s Central Jail.

According to a statement issued by Simpson’s physician, Beverly Hills internist Dr. Robert Huizenga, the operation involved the removal and biopsy of swollen lymph nodes from the former football star’s armpits. Simpson was sedated during the procedure.

The statement said that “Simpson has been followed closely over the last several weeks for progressive (lymph node swelling) and drenching night sweats. He has a strong family history of cancer. An exhaustive medical search for infectious causes--including HIV--proved negative.”

In the absence of such infections, Huizenga said doctors concluded that a biopsy was required “to rule out malignancy.” Medical authorities contacted by The Times said that even when lymph node swelling cannot be attributed to infection, it often has a benign cause, including something as simple as an allergy to deodorant. However, it also can be a symptom of lymphatic cancer or of a malignancy’s spread from some other organ.

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Huizenga’s statement took the unusual form of a letter to one of Simpson’s attorneys, Robert L. Shapiro. The physician said his remarks were “prepared with the patient’s consent,” and were issued “in the face of widespread rumors and unfounded hearsay.” Shapiro distributed copies of the letter to the press. Neither Huizenga nor Shapiro returned calls to their offices.

However, Dr. John Glaspy, director of UCLA’s Boyer Oncology Center, said in an interview that Huizenga’s letter “constitutes a full and clear explanation, and tells us why the biopsy is a smart thing to do now.” Glaspy cautioned that lymph node swelling may have many causes, but noted that “the other symptom--drenching night sweats--can be a symptom not only of an undetected infection, but also of primary cancer. . . . The reason you do a biopsy is so you don’t have to guess.”

Glaspy and other medical authorities said unless an outside review is required, results of the biopsy should be available Monday.

Preparations for the surgery apparently began two days ago, when Simpson’s lawyers filed a sealed motion requesting his move to Cedars-Sinai. Superior Court Judge Lance A. Ito granted their request with an order that also was sealed.

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California law grants any jail inmate the right to seek treatment from a doctor of his or her choice, as long as the inmate can obtain a court order and pay all the security, transportation and medical costs.

According to Detective George Ducoulombier, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, “all the expenses incurred in this operation were charged to Simpson. The procedure that O.J. used is very rare because of the cost. Basically, most of our inmates simply couldn’t afford it.”

Ducoulombier said sheriff’s deputies were compiling the bill for the transfer, but he speculated that it probably would reach “several thousand dollars, excluding the cost of the medical treatment or any medication.”

Ducoulombier said the move involved three unmarked sheriff’s cars, one lieutenant and five deputies who accompanied Simpson at all times. The motorcade left the jail northeast of Downtown at 3:45 a.m. and Simpson was back in his cell by 7 a.m.

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