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WellSpan York Hospital recently announced that a heater-cooler device used during open-heart surgeries at its Pennsylvania facility may have led to the fatalities of six patients. In 2015, WellSpan identified eight patients who suffered a nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) infection after receiving open-heart surgery, and revealed that four of those eight did not survive. South Jersey medical malpractice lawyers report that two more patients are believed to have lost their lives before a connection between NTM infections and open-heart surgeries was known.
WellSpan is one of just five hospitals to publicly disclose NTM infection rates in connection with heater-cooler devices, which are used to regulate blood temperature during cardiac bypass. Although the device never comes into direct contact with an open-heart surgery patient, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has hypothesized that a heater-cooler can nonetheless grow NTM bacteria in its water tank and then spread the aerosolized bacteria through its exhaust vent. Other hospitals to reveal data regarding fatal NTM infections include Penn Presbyterian Hospital in Philadelphia and Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
In a series of safety communications issued in 2015 and 2016, the FDA revealed that it is currently compiling adverse event reports as well as information from national and international public health agencies in an effort to determine whether the continued use of heater-cooler devices is unsafe. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 157,500 Americans suffered surgical site infections in 2011, which is the last year for which complete data is available. Other leading causes of hospital acquired infections include infections of the primary bloodstream, urinary tract infections from improper or unsterile catheterization technique, and infections stemming from pneumonia.
In light of federal government warnings, hospitals are now fully aware that NTM infections are a valid concern for open-heart surgical patients. Hospitals, accordingly, have a duty to properly maintain and clean their heater-cooler devices before they will be used. If you or a loved one suffered an NTM infection following open-heart surgery, contact the South Jersey medical malpractice lawyers at Folkman Law Offices, P.C. Our experienced team of litigators will investigate your claim and seek compensation on your behalf. Call us today at 856-354-9444, or contact us online to schedule a consultation at our Cherry Hill, New Jersey office.