CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD)– MUSC is one of the many hospitals across the nation warning heart bypass patients of a possible bacterial infection.
The rare mycobacterial infection has been linked to a heating and cooling device commonly used during open heart surgery.
MUSC says they believe 3,000 patients have been exposed to the device. MUSC spokesperson, Heather Woolwine says they warned people out of an “abundance of caution.”
“We want to make sure that they aware that this risk does exist and to be aware of possible symptoms that could indicate an infection,” says Woolwine.
Symptoms include fatigue, night sweats, and unexplained fever.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, the device uses temperature controlled water to warm or cool a patient throughout surgery.
The water, in the closed circuits, does not come in contact with the patient but it is believed that possible bacterial contamination can occur once the water is aerosolized and released through the device’s vent.
MUSC says 60 percent of all the nation’s heart surgery programs use this equipment.
Greenville Health System hospital reported an outbreak of “an unusual bacterial surgical site infection.” They later announced that the “surgical infection” affected 15 patients.
Jay Ward is an attorney with McGowan, Hood, & Felder; the law firm is representing several patients who believe they have been infected by the bacteria.
“This particular bacteria, if untreated, can result in death,” said Ward.
Ward says the device contamination is affecting people across the country.
“The number of patients who have potentially been exposed to this bacteria would number in the thousands if not potentially hundred of thousands,” said Ward.