The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that hospitals notify patients who have had heart surgery about a potential infection risk related to a device used during this surgery.

Potential infection risk

The CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are investigating reports that a common device used to heat and cool the blood during heart surgery may have been contaminated during manufacturing with a bacterium known as nontuberculous mycobacterium (NTM). This bacterium is commonly found in the environment, such as in soil and drinking water, and it is typically not harmful. However, in rare cases it may cause infections in post-operative surgical patients, especially in people with weakened immune systems.

Patients should contact their primary care doctor with questions. Renown's infectious disease specialists also are available at (775) 982-3866.

For patients who have had heart surgery using a heater-cooler device, the chances of getting this infection are very low. The CDC estimates the risk to be less than one percent. To date, 32 patients across Europe and the United States have developed this infection, and it has only been identified in the mid-west and eastern regions of the U.S. Additionally, we are not aware of any patients identified in Nevada or the western U.S. However, out of an abundance of caution and per CDC recommendations, we are notifying patients and medical providers of the situation.

Maintain communication with your primary care doctor

This infection is slow growing and difficult to diagnose. It is possible to develop symptoms years after surgery, so it is important to be aware of the symptoms. This infection cannot be spread person-to-person and the risk of developing this infection are rare. Symptoms of an NTM infection include:

  • night sweats
  • muscle aches
  • weight loss
  • fatigue
  • unexplained fever

We understand that patients and their family members might have additional questions about this notification. Patients should first address any questions with their primary care doctor. If a patient does not have a primary care doctor, our infectious disease specialists are available at 775-982-3866.

Posted 11/30/16