St. Francis Hospital warns 3,000 patients of potential heater-cooler-related infections

St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford, Conn., in accordance with CDC guidance, is among several hospitals working to notify thousands of open-heart surgery patients of potential infection risk linked to the use of heater-cooler devices, according to NBC Connecticut.

The hospital is reaching out to approximately 3,000 patients who received an open-heart surgical procedure between Jan. 1, 2012, and Nov. 17, 2016, at the hospital. Additionally, St. Francis will replace the at-risk heater-coolers this month.

In October, the CDC notified hospitals that Stöckert 3T heater-cooler devices were likely spreading nontuberculous mycobacterium, or NTM, infections, and urged hospitals to notify potentially affected patients.

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NTM can often be found in tap water and soil and pose little risk to healthy people. While benign in the environment, the microbes can incite infections in patients with open chest cavities. Infections can be deadly and are often difficult to treat.

Heater-cooler devices use circulating water to modulate body temperature during open heart surgery. It is believed small amounts of contaminated water can become aerosolized and emit via a vent in the device, thus creating the potential to infect humans. The devices can also be difficult to clean once contamination occurs as the bacteria forms a resilient biofilm.

On Friday, a spokesperson from St. Francis informed Becker's via email no infections related to heater-cooler devices among the hospital's patients, either suspected or confirmed, have been detected.

Recently, Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Mass., also began notifying as many as 1,800 open-heart surgery patients of a potential bacterial exposure linked to heater-coolers.

More articles on infection control: 
Infection control in the US: 2016 year in review 
200 unvaccinated students sent home from school amid mumps outbreak in Washington 
Researchers create supersized petri dish to study superbugs: 4 things to know

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