Last October the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) sent a letter to hospitals throughout the United States alerting them to a potential serious health hazard related to open-chest cardiac surgeries performed in the hospitals. Specifically, the CDC notified hospitals that a device known as a Stöckert 3T Heater-Cooler which was manufactured by a company in Germany called LivaNova and shipped to the United States could have contamination which originated in the equipment when it was manufactured in the factory in Germany.
One of the reasons why this is such a significant health issue is because there were approximately a quarter of a million such surgeries performed last year alone in the United States and not only that, but approximately 60% of the heater-cooler devices currently in use in United States hospitals were manufactured by LivaNova.
The potential exists for infection from very slow-growing bacteria known as Mycobacterium chimaera which is a species of nontuberculous mycobacterium (NTM). This condition is challenging both to diagnose and treat because the bacteria are very slow growing and patients may not experience symptoms for months or even years after the surgery was done. This is also not the type of infection that doctors would be on the lookout for since it is rather rare.
The CDC has asked hospitals to send a letter to any patient who has had such a surgery. The symptoms which a patient should be alerted to are:
- Night sweats
- Muscle aches
- Weight loss
- Unexplained fever
It is important to note that even though this infection is very serious indeed, it cannot be spread from one person to another.
If you have received such a letter from your hospital or surgeon, or if you have been diagnosed with an NTM infection after cardiac surgery, we would be glad to discuss this with you.