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Medical Malpractice Cases: Heart Bypass Infections

The Anastopoulo Law Firm

When you or someone you care about suffers heart problems, such as arrhythmias, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels, your doctor may run tests to indicate if a heart bypass is in order. For people at risk of serious and life threatening heart attacks and strokes, these procedures can be lifesaving. Unfortunately, medical experts have recently issued alerts to hospitals warning them of problems with medical devices used during these surgeries that could result in a risk for potentially fatal infections. These kinds of medical malpractice cases are becoming more common. If you have had open heart surgery in the recent past or are planning on undergoing this type of procedure in the future, the following information is important to protecting your health and safety.

Heater-Cooler Devices Present Risk For Infection

According to an October 2016 report in Becker’s Hospital Review, concerns were raised as early as 2015 concerning a common medical device used in over 250,000 open heart surgery procedures. The device in question is a specific brand of heater-cooler manufactured by medical device company LivaNova, which is used in roughly 60 percent of all heart bypass surgeries to monitor and regulate the patient’s body temperature and blood flow during the procedure. Officials discovered the devices had been contaminated with a certain type of bacteria during the manufacturing process. Medical malpractice cases have arisen as these contaminated devices had inadvertently been used on patients in the U.S. and Switzerland. The bacteria involved, Mycobacterium chimaera, is one commonly found both in dirt and in water, and exposure from these sources usually has no effect and goes largely unnoticed. It is when these bacteria aerosolize in the heater-cooler device that it becomes dangerous, leading to infections in patients that can be severe and even fatal.

How Hospitals Can Protect Patients From Heart Bypass Infections

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which issued the recent health advisory about the dangers associated with the heater-coolers, has advised hospitals to warn patients who have recently had bypass procedures of the risk of infection. As these infections can be life threatening if left unchecked, patients should see a doctor immediately if the experience any of the following symptoms due to these medical malpractice cases:

  • Night sweats
  • Muscle aches
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Sudden onset of fever

In response to these medical malpractice cases, hospitals are advised to develop plans for outreach and communication to patients who may have been exposed to the bacteria. They have also been advised to develop plans to protect patients who may be candidates for future open heart procedures. Patients may now be required to sign informed consent documents acknowledging they have been told the risks, while hospitals themselves are required to use thorough inspection, cleaning, and sanitizing techniques to ensure that all heater-cooler devices are sterilized before use.

Get Help With Your Medical Malpractice Case

If you or someone you care about has suffered an adverse reaction due to a lack of hospital oversight or as the result of a defective or dangerous medical device, contact our experienced South Carolina medical malpractice attorneys today. At Anastopoulo Law Firm we can advise you on how to hold responsible parties accountable for the injuries and damages you have suffered, and we can assist you in getting the compensation you need to recover.


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