February 8, 2016 — University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC) is warning 1,500 patients that they may have been exposed to a risk of infection from heater-cooler devices, which are commonly used during heart, lung, and liver surgery.
One patient was diagnosed with a Non-Tuberculous Mycobacteria (NTM) infection years after undergoing cardiac surgery in 2012. The hospital is asking patients who had cardiac surgery in the last four years to seek medical care if they have the following symptoms:
- Fever lasting more than one week
- Pain, redness, heat, or pus around the surgical incision
- Night sweats
- Joint pain
- Muscle pain
- Loss of energy
- Failure to gain weight or grow (in infants)
The heater-cooler device uses water to control the temperature of a patient’s blood during cardiac bypass. The water never comes in contact with the patient, but it can become contaminated with NTM. Patients can develop infections when the bacteria sprays out of the heater-cooler device’s exhaust vents and onto a sterile surgical site or an implant (heart valve, graft, etc.).
NTM infections are probably vastly under-diagnosed for several reasons. The bacteria is very slow-growing and it can take up to four years before symptoms appear. Another problem is that patients usually seek treatment for post-surgical infections at local clinics rather than the hospital where the surgery was performed.
Diagnosis is often delayed because doctors do not normally screen for Mycobacterium. This is one reason why the mortality rate for NTM infections is approximately 50%. Treatment itself can have serious risks — patients must take multiple drugs with serious side effects and undergo revision surgery for any implants that are contaminated.
Do I have a Heart Surgery Infection Lawsuit?
The Schmidt Firm, PLLC is currently accepting heater-cooler device induced injury cases in all 50 states. If you or somebody you know has been diagnosed with an infection, you should contact our lawyers immediately for a free case consultation. Please use the form below to contact our Defective Drug Litigation Group or call toll free 24 hours a day at (866) 920-0753.
Attention Lawyers: We consider a referral from another law firm to be one of the greatest compliments. If your firm is interested in referring us a case or for us to send you a list of previous award judgments and/or average referral fees, please visit the Lawyer Referral section of our website.