Three LA County Patients Get Bacterial Infection from Surgical Device
At least three cases of bacterial infections confirmed in heart surgery patients have been traced to hospital use of a specific type of heater-cooler device used during open-heart surgery. According to a report on CBS Los Angeles, all of the Los Angeles County heart surgery patients identified with Mycobacterium chimaera had undergone open-heart surgery, according to the county Department of Public Health.
Threat of Bacterial Infections
Chimaera is a slow-growing bacterium and the infection may not even become apparent until months or years after surgery. County health officials are not saying in which hospitals these procedures were done. However, all patients survived the infections. Officials are also looking into a possible fourth case of the bacterial infection. All the infections are linked to the use of the LivaNova 3T heater-cooler device during surgery.
As of October 2016, more than 70 cases have been reported worldwide. Health officials have said that more than 250,000 heart-bypass surgeries are performed using heater-cooler devices. And about 60 percent of them involve the specific brand that has been associated with the infections. The health department says it has been in contact with Los Angeles County hospitals that have used these devices to make sure they comply with Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines.
Why Bacteria are Found in the Devices
Chimaera is one of a group of bacteria commonly found in the environment. These infections tend to develop very slowly and in people who are more susceptible to infections due to other health conditions. Heater-cooler devices are often used during cardiac surgery because circulating blood and organs must be maintained at specific temperatures.
There is the potential for M. chimaera or even other bacteria to grow in a water tank in the heater cooler units. Even if the water in the heater-cooler unit does not come into contact with the patient’s blood or body fluids, contaminated water droplets from the tank may transmit the bacteria through the air causing the bacteria to then find their way to the patient during surgery. It could take several months for the infection to develop. Some of the most common symptoms include fatigue, persistent cough, night sweats, muscle or abdominal pain, nausea, joint pain and vomiting.
What to Do If You Have A Bacterial Infection
If you or a loved one has suffered an infection due to a defective device, you may be able to file a product liability claim against the manufacturer of the faulty device. Injured victims can seek compensation for damages including medical expenses, lost income, hospitalization, pain and suffering and emotional distress. An experienced product defect lawyer will be able to advise you regarding your legal rights and options.