A number of patients have tested positive for a slow growing, potentially damaging bacteria linked to a heater-cooler device commonly used during heart surgeries.
One major hospital, Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, has begun notifying approximately 2,300 open-heart surgery patients of possible exposure.
“In July, Penn State Hershey Medical Center infectious disease specialists made a connection between three patients with a rare infection caused by nontuberculous mycobacterium, or NTM, being treated at the Medical Center. Penn State Hershey physicians made the discovery that patients with this infection had undergone open-heart surgery at WellSpan York Hospital and immediately notified officials at that hospital.” News.psu.edu
The heating cooling devices linked to the bacteria are used to regulate the blood temperature of patients during open heart surgical procedures. The bacteria in question, nontuberculous mycobacterium, or NTM, is commonly found in nature and isn’t considered a harmful bacterium, yet can have adverse effects on patients undergoing invasive procedures.
NTM facts heart surgery patients should be aware of:
- NTM is not contagious
- NTM infections are often treatable
- NTM is a slow growing organism which may take several months or more to develop into an infection