You may recall from our previous blog that an outbreak of nontuberculous mycobacterium (NTM) a few weeks ago at WellSpan York Hospital in Pennsylvania resulted in the deaths of four patients. Now, the Pennsylvania Department of Health has announced that more cases have been confirmed at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. Approximately 2,300 patients who received open-heart surgery at this hospital have been alerted of the possibility that they may have been exposed to the bacteria.
In light of this information, the Health Department is urging healthcare facilities to follow new guidelines related to the use and care of the heater-cooler devices believed to be the culprit behind the recent onslaught of patient infections. So far, all of the heater-cooler devices at both hospitals have been replaced.
The heater-cooler devices, used to monitor the body temperature of patients undergoing open-heart surgery, has been linked to the spread of the harmful bacteria. Because the device blows air onto the patient, any contaminants on or inside of the device due to contaminated water or improper cleaning methods could make contact with an open wound. While NTM bacteria is usually not harmful, it can be very dangerous to an individual whose health is already compromised.
According to a Safety Communication published by the FDA, health care providers must strictly adhere to the manufacturer’s cleaning and disinfection standards and are urged not to use tap water to rinse, fill, or top off water tanks. In addition, health care professionals are advised to direct the device’s vent exhaust away from the surgical field to minimize the risk of exposure to the patient, and to perform air, water, and environmental sampling if contamination is suspected.
NTM is a slow-spreading bacteria, and infected patients may not show symptoms for months or even years. The Health Department is currently assessing the risk to patients who received an open-heart surgery between November 5, 2011 and November 5, 2015.
Medical Malpractice Attorneys in Philadelphia
The CDC advises all open-heart surgery patients who underwent their procedures during the above time frame to contact their doctors if they experience any symptoms of bacterial infection:
- Muscle or joint pain
- Night sweats
- Redness, pain, heat, and/or pus around the surgical site
If you suspect that you may have contracted a hospital-acquired infection, you may be entitled to compensation through a negligence-based medical malpractice lawsuit. To find out if you may be eligible, please consult with a Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyer at Shrager, Spivey & Sachs. After a thorough investigation of your case, we can help you determine your best options for legal recourse.
We have proudly helped injured people seek justice since 1978. To request a free consultation with a member of our highly-rated team, please call our office at (888) 899-0652.