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Patients who underwent open-heart surgery at Wellspan York Hospital, in Pennsylvania, within the past four years may be at risk for a bacterial infection, according to hospital officials. To date, the infections may have contributed to four deaths.

All four patients had underlying health conditions and as such the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was unable to directly link the deaths to the infection. However, hospital officials acknowledged the infection was likely a contributing factor.

Heater-cooler devices that are used during the heart procedures to keep the patient warm or cold have been linked to the infections, according to the CDC.

The alert affects an estimated 1,300 patients that have undergone open-heart surgery at WellSpan York Hospital. The hospital has sent patients a letter to inform them about the potential exposure to nontuberculous mycobacterium, or NTM.

Although the bug is commonly found in nature, including water, soil and tap water, according to federal health officials, in most instances it’s not harmful. However, in rare cases it can cause infections in patients who have had invasive medical procedures, particularly those with a weakened immune system.

“We know that the news of this potential risk of infection may be concerning to our open-heart patients, and we sincerely regret any distress that it may create for those patients and their families,” – Keith Noll, senior vice president of WellSpan Health and president of WellSpan York Hospital

NTM Infection Symptoms

  • Joint Pain
  • Fever
  • Weight Loss
  • Death, in serious cases
  • Loss of energy
  • Redness
  • Heat and/or pus around the surgical incision
  • Night sweats
  • Joint and/or muscle pain

News media is reporting that federal officials knew about the potential risk and could have and should have alerted patients.

What Should Patients Do?

If you had open heart or bypass surgery at Wellspan York Hospital between October 2011 and July 2015, you may be one of the patients at risk of serious infection or death.

News reports indicate the infection of eight patients, four whom have died, may have been related to bacteria that became airborne from an allegedly defective component or the inadequate cleaning of a heating-cooling device used in a cooling blanket that is placed on the patients during the procedure.

Legal recourse may be an option for infected patients who have suffered complications and for the families of patients that have died.

If at any time over the last four years you have experienced infections, regardless of the date of surgery, call the defective medical device and medical malpractice attorneys at Sheller, P.C at 800-883-2299 to learn your legal rights and protect your health and well being.

The infection can occur months after surgery and might not be linked to the defective device immediately. If you have been experiencing any symptoms please contact your medical doctor as soon as possible.

This is the second Pennsylvania hospital associated with a potentially deadly infection within months. In September, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center voluntarily halted organ transplants after three transplant patients died after contracting a fungal infection.


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