Infection Risk For NB Heart Centre Open Heart Surgery Patients, Says Horizon

Posted on Thursday, April 20, 2017 13:35 PM

Medical devices used during open heart surgery at the New Brunswick Heart Centre in Saint John has been linked to a rare bacterial infection  and patients who had the surgery between November 2012 and November of last year are being warned of a potential, though very low, infection risk.

That notification comes by way of Horizon Health which describes the infection risk for the patients as being less than one in a thousand, and Dr. Jean-Francois Legare, the clinical head of cardiac surgery at the New Brunswick Heart Centre, tells Acadia Broadcasting it is probably closer to one in five thousand.

Dr. Legare says that they're now in the process of contacting 2800 patients.

"So maybe there is one patient out of all the ones we've contacted that could be affected, so it is a very small number, but again we're trying to make sure that we're not missing something that we could treat or could help someone."

The device is called a Sorin 3T Heater Cooler and is used to heat and cool blood during open heart surgery. It's been associated with non-tuberculosis mycobacterium  and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention started warning healthcare providers about this last October. We asked why we're only hearing about this now.

"We had no proof that the bacteria was actually present in our system. When [the Health Canada warning came out] we at that time took the sample sand sent it for analysis, and it took until now [to confirm the presence of the bacteria]," says Dr. Legare.

Horizon says after the immediate preliminary tests, they bleached their three units, replaced the hosing and further tests have been negative. Horizon says the device could have been contaminated during manufacturing.

Non-tuberculosis mycobacterium is described as a "normal organism" that's present in tap water and not dangerous when outside of the body. Though it can take years for the infection to become apparent.

"We're probably in contact with these types of bacteria all the time and it doesn't make anyone sick. But if it actually manages to get inside your body...that's where an infection could be an infection," says Dr. Legare.

"And the only way it gets in there is if little particles gets in the air in the operation room and somehow one of these air particles falls into your operative field. I think the risk of that is very small particularly in Saint John the way we have our set-up in the operating room."

They say that anyone who has had open heart surgery at the NBHC and has questions or concerns should call their family doctor or nurse practitioner or call 1-844-428-6242.