Alberta Health Services (AHS) is telling open-heart surgery patients that there is an “extremely low risk” of infection from a piece of equipment used during the procedure.
AHS is warning 11,500 people about the chance of picking up Mycobacterium chimaera from certain units used to warm and cool blood during surgery.
“We are releasing this information proactively to share details about the potential risk of exposure to M. chimaera bacteria as well as to reassure patients and families that there is an extremely low risk of infection in those who may have been exposed,” Dr. Mark Joffe, AHS Senior Medical Director, Infection, Prevention and Control said in a news release. “No infections have been identified to date in any AHS cardiac patients.”
The units are used at the Mazankowski Heart Institute, Stollery Children’s Hospital, and the Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary.
M. chimaera infections cannot be spread by person-to-person contact. Infections grow slowly and may take months or even years to develop. Symptoms can be subtle, but will generally progress over several weeks and may include:
- Unexplained, persistent and profuse night sweats.
- Unintentional weight loss.
- Muscle aches.
- Redness, heat or pus at the surgical incision site.
“It’s important for patients to understand that symptoms are far more likely to be caused by other health conditions or short-lived bacterial or viral infections than M. chimaera,” said Dr. Joffe. “The risk of M. chimaera infection is extremely low but it is important to consult with your doctor if symptoms persist for more than a couple of weeks and you feel that your health is declining.”
AHS will be sending notifications to Alberta physicians and patients who may have been affected. That will include either patients, or parents of paediatric patients. (kdr/kb)