Approximately 1,300 open-heart surgery patients at WellSpan York Hospital
have been notified of possible exposure to bacteria – a nontuberculous
mycobacterium, or NTM. The potentially exposed patients are those who
have had open-heart surgery at York Hospital between October 1, 2011 and
July 24, 2015.
NTM is commonly found in nature and is not typically harmful, according to a
WellSpan news release. However, in rare cases it can cause infections in patients who have had
invasive medical procedures, especially patients with weakened immune systems.
The source of the infection is thought to be the hospital’s heater-cooler
devices which are used to control a patient’s blood temperature
during open-heart surgery. An internal review conducted by the hospital
identified that its cleaning protocols for the water-cooler devices did
not align perfectly with guidelines provided by the device manufacturer.
At least eight confirmed patients have contracted the bacterial infection
and four of those patients died, according to published reports. The bacterium
is not contagious, and the infection can usually be treated once identified.
However, it is a slow-growing organism, and it can take months or years
before the infection is correctly diagnosed.
PA Department of Health said symptoms of the infection can include:
- weight loss
- night sweats
- loss of energy
- pain, redness, heat or pus around a surgical incision
- joint or muscle pain
Exposed patients are advised to seek medical treatment if they believe
they might have symptoms.
www.wellspan.org/YorkOpenHeart, has been set up for patients to get additional information and resources
on this issue.
Federal health authorities believe this device issue may be widespread
across the country and have issued
health advisories to hospitals nationally in a preventative effort.
If you or a loved one feel you may have contracted an infection due to
bacteria from a heater-cooler device at York Hospital or any other hospital,
contact Metzger Wickersham today for a free consultation. Our experienced Pennsylvania
personal injury attorneys are investigating potential cases on behalf
of open-heart surgery patients who have suffered injury associated with
Sources: CDC, PA Department of Health, wellspan.org, fox43.com, wgal.com,