Thousands of open heart surgery patients were exposed to a risk of infection from contaminated Heater-Cooler devices. At least six deaths and nearly two dozen infections have been blamed on the problem.
UPDATE: Heater-Cooler Class Action Filed in Iowa
May 2017 — A woman from Iowa has filed a class action lawsuit (PDF) for everyone in Iowa who was exposed to M. chimaera, M. abscessus, and other potentially deadly types of Non-Tuberculosis Mycobacterium (“NTM bacteria”) bacteria from a Sorin/LivaNova Stӧckert 3T heater-cooler machine. Click here to read more.
- In February 2016, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics warned approximately 1,500 patients who had open-heart, lung, or liver surgeries between July 1, 2012 and July 1, 2016 that they may be at risk of infection.
- In August 2016, Mercy Medical Center in Iowa warned approximately 2,600 patients who had open-heart surgery between July 1, 2012 and July 1, 2016 that they were exposed to the bacteria from a heater-cooler unit.
Heater-Cooler Lawsuits Centralized in MDL
In January 2017, lawyers for 15 people who developed infections asked a panel of federal judges to centralize the lawsuits in a Multi-District Litigation (MDL) in South Carolina. The MDL process is similar to a class action, but it allows each case to remain independent, which is why it is unlikely that a class action will resolve Heater-Cooler Infection Lawsuits.
Class Action Lawsuit Filed in Pennsylvania
In February 2016, a class action lawsuit (PDF) was filed in Pennsylvania by two men who were exposed to a deadly bacteria during open-heart surgery at WellSpan York and Penn State Hershey Medical Center. Case No. 1:16-cv-00260.
What is a Heater-Cooler?
Stӧckert 3T Heater-Coolers are commonly used during open heart surgery to keep a patient warm. The system consists of a water tank connected to a heat-exchanger or a blanket used to warm or cool a patient.
What is the problem?
When non-sterile water is used in the tank, a common bacteria known as Non-Tuberculosis Mycobacteria (NTM) can contaminate the system. The water in a heater-cooler device never directly contacts a patient. However, when the water evaporates, bacteria can aerosolize from the vents and spray onto a patient, resulting in an infection.
Outbreaks Linked to Heater-Cooler Devices
The first cluster of six infections were reported in Europe by Clinical Infectious Diseases in March 2015. In October, the FDA reported that 32 reports of infection or bacterial contamination had been reported since 2010.
Symptoms of Infection
Mycobacteria is slow-growing and it can take months or several years before a patient experiences symptoms. When symptoms appear, the infection is easily misdiagnosed. Symptoms may include:
- Joint pain
- Muscle pain
- Night sweats
- Pain, redness, heat, or pus around the surgical incision
What is the problem?
The Schmidt Firm, PLLC is nationally recognized as a class action law firm, but our trial attorneys are not currently filing a Heater-Cooler class action. Instead, we are filing individual lawsuits and only accepting cases involving mycobacterial infections after heart surgery.
About Class Actions
Class actions are beneficial for large groups of people with the same legal claim — for example, seeking reimbursement for buying a defective product. Plaintiffs consolidate their claims, collectively fight for compensation, and share any payout.
Why Our Law Firm is Filing Individual Lawsuits as Opposed to a Class Action
Heart surgery patients who develop mycobacterial infections may suffer for years with a misdiagnosed condition. They are also at risk of developing life-threatening complications.
Unfortunately, members of class actions sometimes must accept a “low-ball” settlement and higher attorneys’ fees. Instead of a class action, we are filing individual lawsuits.
Our law firm specializes in providing personal legal representation to people who were severely injured by defective medical devices. If you decide to file a lawsuit, you could recover compensation for your pain and suffering, medical expenses, lost income, disability, and more.