Approximately 11,500 former open-heart surgery patients, both adult and children, may have been exposed to bacteria during their procedure, according to Alberta Health Services.
AHS is notifying former patients after the Federal Drug Administration, Center for Disease Control and Health Canada reported a potential risk for Mycobacterium chimaera infection with certain heater-cooler units.
In Edmonton, patients who were operated on after Jan. 2012 up until present are being notified. In Calgary, patients who were operated on after Jan. 2013 up until present are being notified. There is no word on how many of the patients are adult and how many are children.
The units are used to warm and cool blood during adult and pediatric open-heart surgery. They are used at the Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary and the Mazankowski Alberta Health Institute and Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton.
Notifications are being mailed to Alberta physicians and former adult and pediatric open-heart surgery patients.
Dr. Mark Joffe, AHS senior medical director in infection, prevention and control, said there is an extremely low risk of infection to those who may have been exposed. He said no infections have been identified to date.
“As always, patient safety is our first priority. Our sites follow manufacturer instructions for use to clean and maintain these machines. At all sites, we have implemented additional safety measures to further minimize risk,” Joffe said in a release.
M. chimaera infections grow slowly and may take months or years to develop. The bacteria cannot be spread by person-to-person contact.
Symptoms include fever, persistent and profuse night sweats, unintentional weight loss, muscle aches, fatigue and redness, heat or pus at the surgical incision site.
“It’s important for patients to understand that symptoms are far more likely to be caused by other health conditions or short-lived bacterial or viral infections than M. chimaera,” said Dr. Joffe. “The risk of M. chimaera infection is extremely low but it is important to consult with your doctor if symptoms persist for more than a couple of weeks and you feel that your health is declining.”
More details to come.