Contaminated Devices May Put Open-Heart Patients at Risk

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Contaminated Devices May Put Open-Heart Patients at Risk

A surgical time bomb?

By Working Nurse
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If you see patients who’ve had open-heart surgery — even if it was a while ago — the FDA and CDC want you to be on the lookout for a rare but potentially serious bacterial infection that may have resulted from contaminated surgical equipment

Slow-Growing Infection

 We usually think of healthcare-associated infections as something that develops right away, possibly while a patient is still in the hospital. However, the FDA and CDC are now warning that open-heart surgery patients as far back as January 2012 may have been infected with slow-growing bacteria that can go years before any symptoms present.

 The culprit is Mycobacterium chimaera, which may have contaminated some German-made Stöckert 3T surgical heater-cooler units when they were manufactured. Those devices are used in many cardiothoracic and other chest surgeries, where there’s a chance patients may be exposed to the bacteria. Although the CDC says the chances of a patient becoming infected during surgery are low, contaminated devices have been linked to infections in both the U.S. and Europe. The risk appears to be highest in patients who received prosthetic device or valve implants. 

What You Can Do

 Because of the slow-developing nature of this infection, patients may not think to connect their symptoms with their surgery. A nurse asking the right questions can make a big difference.

 If any of your patients has had open-chest surgery within the past four years and presents with symptoms such as unusual fever, fatigue or joint pain; night sweats; nausea, abdominal pain or vomiting; or unexplained weight loss, the patient may have been exposed to the bacteria during surgery. Lab cultures can confirm the infection.

 If your unit uses surgical heater-cooler devices, you can also help by ensuring that your facility has the latest manufacturer cleaning and disinfection guidelines. Some may have changed since the federal investigation began.  

This article is from workingnurse.com.

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