2 open-heart surgery patients infected, Des Moines hospital issues warning to others

Mercy Medical Center-Des Moines (Iowa) notified roughly 2,600 patients who underwent open-heart surgery at the hospital that they may be at risk for infections linked to a device used during surgery.

Heater-cooler devices used during open-heart surgery to regulate the patient's temperature have been identified as a potential threat to patient safety by both the Food and Drug Administration and the CDC because of their association with nontuberculous mycobacterial infections.

NTM are slow-growing bacteria commonly found in nature, but they can become aerosolized by the devices and infect humans. The infection can be treated once diagnosed, but the infection can take several months or years to develop.

In the last year, other hospitals have issued similar warnings to their patients, and in a Wednesday announcement, Mercy Medical Center joined their ranks, notifying open-heart surgery patients who had the surgery between July 1, 2012, and July 1, 2016.

Two Mercy Medical Center patients have already been diagnosed with an NTM infection, according to the hospital.

"We have taken immediate action and are following CDC guidelines," Tommy Ibrahim, MD, the hospital's chief physician officer and vice president of medical affairs, said in a statement. "We are proactively engaging with health officials as we inform and support our patient and provider community."

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