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    Last updated: July 20, 2021

    Mycobacterium Chimaera Infections After Heart Surgery in Pennsylvania Hospitals

    Cardiac surgery patients in Pennsylvania may have been exposed to a potentially fatal bacterial infection caused by a slow growing bacteria, Mycobacterium Chimaera. What makes these infections so difficult to detect is that they may develop weeks, months and even years after the surgery, and as a result, may be misdiagnosed as other illnesses.

    The bacteria can enter heater-cooler devices used during heart surgery, particularly, open heart surgery. These devices are used to heat and cool blood during the surgery. If the bacteria, which exists naturally in the air, water, and soil, contaminates the heater-cooler, it can enter the patient’s bloodstream.

    In Mycobacterium Chimaera infection cases, the manufacturer of the heater-cooler device may face a product liability claim. In addition, the hospital or surgeon may also be liable for failure to follow the manufacturer’s cleaning and maintenance instructions.

    Did You Receive a Letter from a Hospital Warning You About Infection Risks?

    Recently, hospitals across Pennsylvania have been sending letters to cardiac surgery patients, warning them of the risk of these infections. The CDC recommends that hospitals which used the specific device send such letters to patients who had cardiac surgeries as far back as 2012.

    If you received a similar letter or suffered from an infection after any cardiac surgery, please contact the Morris Wilson Law Firm. We will review your case and discuss your legal rights with you. Our law firm accepts medical malpractice and hospital malpractice cases across Pennsylvania. (610) 825-0500

    Recent January 2021 Letter to Patients 

    Einstein Medical Center Montgomery (“EMCM”) is following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) recommendations to notify our patients who had open-heart surgery between February 2017 through May 2020 about a potential infection risk related to a device used during this surgery. We are contacting you today as you have been identified from the clinical records as a cardiac surgery patient during this time period who might be affected.

    The CDC has advised hospitals and state and local health departments to track patients for potential infections associated with heater-cooler devices (used to heat and cool the blood during surgery), which have been linked to a rare bacterial infection caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium Chimaera.

    According to the CDC the chances of getting this infection is very low, even in hospitals where at least one infection has been identified. The CDC estimates the risk to be less than 1 percent.

    EMCM has followed, and continues to follow, the recommendations from the CDC, FDA, and device manufacturer on the use, maintenance, cleaning, disinfection and car of the heater-cooler device.

    It is important to know that symptoms of this infection can develop months, or longer, after cardiac surgery. Please be assured that according to the CDC, this infection cannot be spread person to person.

    Symptoms of this infection may include:

    • night sweats,
    • muscle aches,
    • weight loss,
    • fatigue,
    • unexplained fever.

    Should you have any symptoms listed above or questions, please contact your surgeon. You can find more information on the CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov/hai/outbreaks/heater-cooler.html. 

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