Three patients who underwent open-heart surgery at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, PA, have contracted a potentially deadly infection as a result of contaminated surgical devices.
At this time, the hospital staff denies any medical malpractice occurred, and they insist the deaths of two of the three patients were not due to the contracted infection.
Regardless of their stance on the issue, the Pennsylvania-based medical center has mailed written warnings to nearly 2,300 open-heart surgery patients informing them they may have been exposed to a deadly bacteria while undergoing surgery at their facility.
The bacteria, known as nontuberculous mycobacterium (NTM), was believed to have been spread via surgical heater-cooler machines often used during open-heart surgery. Any patient who underwent open-heart surgery at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center between November 5, 2011 and November 5, 2015 may have been exposed to the bacteria.
Patients who received stents, pacemakers or oblations are not at risk for contracting the infection, as these procedures are considered non-invasive and do not require the use of a heater-cooler device.
The Pennsylvania State Health Department has since required the medical center to replace all heater-cooler machines used in open-heart surgeries because of the suspected link between the machines and NTM infections. As of Sunday, the medical center has replaced all of their surgical heater-cooler devices.
In the wake of the infectious exposure, health department officials are urging all hospitals and medical facilities to strictly adhere to new, updated guidelines for cleaning and sanitizing heater-cooler devices used in open-heart surgeries.
Additionally, all hospital staff members and open-heart surgery patients are encouraged to learn the signs and symptoms of a possible NTM infection. Symptoms include night sweats, joint and muscle pain, and redness, pus or swelling around a surgical site.
It’s also important for patients and hospital staff to be aware of the slow growth rate of NTM bacteria, which means it can take several years for patients who were exposed to the bacteria to show any signs or symptoms of an infection.
To help answer patients’ questions, Penn State Hershey has set up a website, www.pennstatehershey.org/open-heart, as well as a toll-free number, 1-877-467-7484.
You may also contact the knowledgeable medical malpractice attorneys at Schmidt Kramer, who can help answer your questions and help ensure you receive the justice and compensation you deserve.