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Patients At Risk From Open-Heart Surgery Devices

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned recently that a spate of infections across the United States and Europe could be attributed to contaminated medical devices used in open-heart surgeries, according to STAT News.

At least 11 patients in the U.S. were infected with bacteria from a heater-cooler device designed to maintain patients' internal temperature during surgery, according to data published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The 11 Americans join the ranks of six people infected in Switzerland, as well as dozens across the U.S. that have experienced similar symptoms.


CDC Issues Advisory

In a recent advisory to health care providers, the CDC urged patients to come forward if they are experiencing any symptoms or signs of an infection following an open-heart surgery. More than 250,000 surgeries annually use the heater-cooler device in question.

In a statement, the CDC said that "while these infections can be severe, and some patients in this investigation have died, it is unclear whether the infection was a direct cause of death,” before clarifying that "available information suggests that patients who had valves or prosthetic products implanted are at higher risk of these infections."

The heater-cooler device is designed to keep blood oxygenated and at the right temperature while doctors perform open heart surgery. The blood temperature is maintained by water which does not come into contact with the blood. However, bacteria still finds a way into the patient. 

“We established that the same mycobacteria go out of the water of the heater-cooler unit, because it’s not airtight,” according to Dr. Hugo Sax, an infectious disease specialist at the University Hospital Zurich, in Switzerland, in an interview with STAT News. “They go into the air, they float around the operating room, and then they fall down on the artificial heart valve that is put outside of the patient before being inserted.”

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