York Hospital identifies 4 more patients infected from heater-cooler devices

In October 2015, WellSpan York (Pa.) Hospital announced eight open-heart surgery patients contracted an infection from heater-cooler devices used during surgery. Now, the hospital has identified four more patients with infections, bringing the total to 12, according to the York Dispatch.

From the 12 total, six have died, and one of the six living patients is no longer receiving treatment, York Dispatch reported. The hospital had sent warnings to 1,300 former patients.

In addition to the new confirmed patients, York hospital also identified two patients who likely had the infection but died before it could be confirmed, according to an FAQ posted online by WellSpan Health.

The infections are caused by nontuberculous mycobacterium, which are commonly found in nature but can cause infections in people with weakened immune systems. The heater-cooler devices used during open-heart surgery to regulate patient temperatures have been implicated in spreading the NTM infections.

NTM are slow-growing bacteria, so infection symptoms can be delayed. The infection is treatable, however.

Other hospitals have had similar issues with the devices — Penn Presbyterian Medical Center in Philadelphia, Mercy Medical Center-Des Moines in Iowa and Penn State Hershey (Pa.) Medical Center have all warned patients of the possibility of an NTM infection linked to heater-cooler machines.

In September of last year, the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration issued separate guidance on the heater-cooler machines.

More articles on infection control:
Missed pre-cleaning step leaves 267 VA patients at risk for infection from scope
Poultry meat can spread MRSA to humans, study shows
Hospitals install heat exchangers to conserve energy — but they can act as a Legionella reservoir, new study finds

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