Warnings were sent to 3,000 patients at Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) Health and 2,000 patients at Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System who had an open-chest surgery since 2012.

No infections were reported and the risk of death is low, but patients need regular check-ups. Symptoms can take up to 6 years to appear. They include night sweats, muscle aches, weight loss, fatigue, or fever.

Infections are caused by Non-Tuberculosis Mycobacteria (NTM), a type of bacteria commonly found in water. It rarely infects healthy adults, but it resists antibiotics and can cause death — especially if it gets inside the chest of a patient who is having surgery.

Experts believe NTM infections are transmitted by a machine that is commonly used in the operating room during open-heart surgeries.

Sorin 3T Heater-Cooler Unit

The machine is a Sorin 3T Heater-Cooler Unit. It uses water to control the body-temperature of a patient who is anesthetized during surgery. Water never directly touches the patient, but it does spray out the back through exhaust vents.

Bacteria in the water can also spray into air in the operating room, land on a patient during surgery, and cause an infection that may not be diagnosed for years.

In 2014, an outbreak of NTM infected 15 patients at Greenville Memorial Hospital in South Carolina. Four of the patients died. The hospital found NTM in their tap water and heater-coolers, but never pinpointed the source of the outbreak. In 2015, the FDA warned hospitals not to use tap water in heater-coolers.

It is likely that nearly everyone who had open-heart surgery in the U.S. since 2006 was exposed to a risk of infection with NTM bacteria — but not because hospitals were using tap water.

Instead, many heater-coolers were contaminated with NTM bacteria at manufacturing facilities in Germany. And although U.S. hospitals have warned tens of thousands of patients, it is possible that millions were actually exposed. Heater-coolers are used in 250,000 surgeries per year.

One recent study focused on a strain of NTM called M. chimaera, and concluded with researchers warning:

We find it likely that most Sorin 3T HCUs made in the past 8-10 years potentially are contaminated by the same M. chimaera strain. In addition, because 80% of the Maquet HCUs also contained M. chimaera … we suggest mycobacterial contamination might be a general problem for HCUs.”

South Carolina is already at the epicenter of the litigation, where 10 out of 15 heater-cooler infection lawsuits are pending. On January 26, lawyers asked judges to create a Multi-District Litigation (MDL) to coordinate all lawsuits nationwide under one judge in South Carolina.

Source: MDL in South Carolina Sought for Sorin 3T Heater-Cooler System Infection Cases

Scales of JusticeEditor’s note: For more information on heart surgery infection lawsuits and your legal rights, please contact the law firm of Johnson Becker, PLLC. The lawyers at the firm are currently evaluating heart surgery infection lawsuits in all 50 states.
Click Here for a Free Confidential Case Consultation

Posted by Elizabeth Bradley

Lifelong consumer advocate. Pop culture nerd. Grammar evangelist. Wannabe organizer. Travel addict. Zombie fan.



    1. Melissa M DeLazier February 16, 2019 at 9:43 am

      By continuing to advance this narrative of the HCUs causing these infections, instead of informing hospitals and the public about the 100% direct cause, which is the tap water in these hospitals, which have all been modified to adhere to “green” standards, you are allowing these infections and deaths of patients to continue. Legionellas, CRE “superbug”, NTM, they are all caused by the same source, not the HCU’s or scopes. Simply change the plumbing back. Raise the temperatures, remove the low-flow fixtures. Hospitals that have done so have completely eliminated these events. Too bad the FDA and CDC will not share this information, it would save so many lives.

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