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Mayo Clinic Warns Patients of Potential Heater-Cooler Device Problems
About 17,000 patients who underwent heart surgery at the Mayo Clinic have received notices from the hospital of a potential risk of infection. The risk is associated with a machine known as a heater-cooler device, which has been linked to potentially fatal nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) infections.
What is a Heater-Cooler Device, and what is an NTM Infection?
A heater-cooler device is used during a procedure such as open-heart surgery in order to keep the body’s organs at a safe temperature. It stores water in a tank, and this water has to stay at a specific temperature during the procedure.
However, the water in some models can become contaminated with NTM, a type of bacteria commonly found in the soil and the air. While NTM are usually harmless, they can be deadly to someone with a compromised immune system. During open-heart surgery, heater-cooler devices can send a fine mist of contaminated water throughout an operating room. If any of this water enters a patient’s open chest cavity, an NTM infection can develop as a result.
Thousands at Risk
The problem is by no means limited to the Mayo Clinic. Hospitals in several states have warned patients they could be in danger of developing an NTM infection. Patients in Iowa, Michigan and Pennsylvania have also received notices, and 12 patients developed NTM infections in one Pennsylvania hospital alone – six of them died. The specific device that has been linked to contaminated water is the Stockert 3T, manufactured by LivaNova PLC of Germany.