More than 1000 patients who underwent open heart surgery in Canberra warned of low risk of possible bacterial infection
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More than 1000 patients who underwent open heart surgery in Canberra warned of low risk of possible bacterial infection

More than 1000 patients who underwent open heart surgeries in two Canberra hospitals in the past five years have been warned about a "low risk" of a potential bacterial infection.

The warnings were contained in letters ACT Health have sent out to the patients, who underwent open heart surgeries at either Canberra Hospital or National Capital Hospital.

The Sorin heater-cooler unit has been linked to the infections contracted during open heart surgery overseas.

The Sorin heater-cooler unit has been linked to the infections contracted during open heart surgery overseas.Credit:Sorin

It was among other warnings sent to similar surgery patients worldwide, after as many as 60 patients overseas were believed to have contracted a Mycobacterium chimaera (M. chimaera) infection through a common piece of surgical equipment.

The equipment, blood heater-cooler units from Sorin (now known as LivaNova), may have been contaminated with the bacteria during the manufacturing process.

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The units are used to control the temperature of a patient's blood during surgery, and it is believed the confirmed cases may have involved the bacteria being transmitted from the machine with the blood into the sterile area during operation.

ACT Chief Health Officer Dr Paul Kelly said three of the heater-cooler units used in Canberra, two at Canberra Hospital and one at National Capital Private Hospital, had been replaced after a Therapeutic Goods Administration warning earlier this year.

"While there has been no reported patient infections in the ACT, as a precaution these units have been replaced with new alternative units, providing the latest technology for patients requiring this kind of life-saving surgery," he said.

"The risk of M. chimaera infection to an individual patient is very low.

"It is estimated that approximately 1 in every 10, 000 patients that have open heart, valve replacement surgery can acquire an infection.

"The risk appears to be much lower in those who only had coronary artery surgery."

Dr Kelly said patients who had open heart surgery at National Capital Private Hospital between November 2011 to August 2016, or Canberra Hospital from July 2014 to November 2016, had been advised to speak to their GP or specialist.

ACT Health has also notified GPs and specialists across Canberra about the

A slow-growing bacteria, M. chimaera can be difficult to diagnose, given symptoms can take months or even years to develop after a patient's surgery.

Daniel Burdon is a reporter for The Canberra Times

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