Consumer Reports Article Shows Link Between Heater-Cooler Devices, Dangerous Nontuberculous Mycobacteria

Surgery Room

Consumer Reports recently ran an article highlighting the link between heater-cooler devices used in open-heart surgery and complications caused by nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM). These bacteria have caused severe infections in many patients, with some of them leading to death.

A Tragic Example

The magazine reported that a 74-year-old South Carolina man started feeling chest discomfort after undergoing heart bypass surgery. His wife, according to the article, thought her husband’s pain was normal after undergoing such an invasive chest procedure, but she soon found that something much more serious was going on. While her husband was being examined by a nurse, she noticed that his wound had burst and was leaking pus.

Tests soon showed that her husband had developed an NTM infection. This bacterium is commonly found in soil and water and is usually harmless. But for those who have compromised immune systems, an NTM infection can be deadly. This, sadly, was the case for the South Carolina patient, who passed away three weeks after the discovery of his infection.

Scrambling for Answers

Not only was NTM found in South Carolina, but also in hospitals in Pennsylvania, Iowa and other states. Investigators found that most of the NTM infections traced to heater-cooler devices are linked to one particular model, the Stockert 3T from the European manufacturer LivaNova.

This and other heater-cooler devices are somewhat similar in appearance to a portable air conditioner. They help regulate the body’s temperature during open-heart and other invasive procedures that require the chest cavity to be opened. However, researchers believe that the water stored in the device’s tanks can become contaminated with NTM and then sprayed through the air in an operating room. When this happens and the contaminated water enters an open chest cavity, infections can easily develop.

Be Alert to a Potential NTM Infection

Patients who have recently undergone an open-heart procedure should pay attention to the signs of a potential NTM infection. These include night sweats, irritation near the incision, fever, weight loss and others. According to the article, symptoms can occur as long as four years after this type of procedure is performed.

Baron & Budd may be able to help if you or a loved one developed an infection after an invasive surgery that involved the use of a heater-cooler device. Please complete our contact form or call 866-626-3371 to learn more.

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