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LHSC Heart Surgery Patients Warned Of Possible Infection Risk

People who have had open heart surgery at the London Health Sciences Centre are being notified that they may have been exposed to bacteria.

The LHSC is reaching out to 2,200 former adult patients to tell them about what it says is an “extremely low risk of infection related to potential exposure to bacteria during their procedure.”

The risk stems from the use of heater-cooler units that are used during open heart surgery to heat and cool the blood of the patient.

“Some of these units have been linked to a Mycobacterium chimaera infection according to safety alerts issued to hospitals across North America by Health Canada and Public Health Ontario and the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the United States,” the hospital said in a release issued Tuesday.

Patients have been sent letters to inform them of the situation.

“The health of our patients is our first priority and although the risk of infection is extremely low, we want to ensure patients know about the situation and advise them to monitor for symptoms,” said Dr. Bob Kiaii, cardiac surgeon, LHSC.

The LHSC says mycobacterium chimaera infection is not contagious. However, it can take months or years to develop. That makes it hard to diagnose.

Patients who have had open heart surgery at the LHSC are being advised to watch for symptoms like night sweats, muscle aches, weight loss, fatigue, unexplained fever, as well as redness, heat, or pus around the sternal surgical incision.

“Thankfully, the risk of infection is less than one per cent and the risks of not having the surgery far outweigh the risk of infection,” said Dr. Michael John, director, infection prevention and control, LHSC. “We took immediate steps to update all of our protocols for the device based on new recommendations and we are not aware of any patients who have developed this infection following open heart surgery at LHSC to date.”

Patients with any of the symptoms or who have been diagnosed with sarcoidosis since their heart surgery are advised to contact their family physician. Patients can also contact the hospital at 1-844-358-1050 between the hours of 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.