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Open-heart surgery infection risks are on the rise

Open heart surgeries, while not routine by any means, are relatively common. Every year surgeons perform hundreds of thousands of open heart surgeries. Unfortunately, a critical device used in many open-heart surgeries could be subjecting people to a serious and potentially fatal infection. In October, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that a device used in open-heart surgery could be causing infections.

Heater-cooler units could be contaminated

The heater-cooler unit performs a crucial function in roughly a quarter-million open-heart surgeries each year. As the name implies, this device keeps a patient's blood and organs at the correct temperature during surgery. Unfortunately, and potentially tragically, the CDC has discovered that many of these devices are likely to have been contaminated during the manufacturing process. LisaNova, a British company, manufactures this device.

While the infection risk is still relatively low, it is increasing. If a hospital has already had a patient with one of these infections, the risk of another patient becoming infected is between 1 in 100 and 1 in 1000.

Life-threatening infections may not be discovered for months or longer

According to the CDC, a specific type of bacteria, known as Mycobacterium chimaera, is causing the infection. Unfortunately, symptoms of the infection may not appear for months. As a result, developing an effective treatment plan can be very complicated. Right now, the CDC and other regulators are working with hospitals to warn patients of these risks.

Defective or contaminated medical devices should not be used in any surgery or medical procedure. In addition, while every surgery has risks, when surgeons make mistakes that lead to injury or death they must be held accountable. The attorneys of Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor LLP have been a strong resource for individuals across Delaware in medical malpractice and defective product cases.

Sources: Contaminated Devices Putting Open-Heart Surgery Patients at Risk, CDC Newsroom, October 13, 2016, Open-heart surgery devices putting patients at risk, CDC warns, STAT, by Eric Boodman, October 13, 2016

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