The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are investigating reports that a device used to heat and cool the body temperature during cardiac surgery -- the Sorin/ Stöckert® 3T heater-cooler-- has been linked to a rare bacterial infection caused by Mycobacterium chimaera, a type of bacteria known as nontuberculous mycobacterium (NTM). For patients who have had one of these surgeries, the chances of getting this infection are very low. CDC estimates the risk to be less than 1 percent.
AtlantiCare has not identified any patients who have had this infection.
Like many hospitals in the United States and Europe, AtlantiCare used the Sorin/ Stöckert® 3T heater-cooler. Though the risk of infection is low, our priority is the health and safety of our patients. We are alerting patients who had cardiac surgery when the Sorin/ Stöckert® 3T heater-cooler was used.
We have developed the following questions and answers to help you learn more about this national/international issue.
Nontuberculosis mycobacterium (NTM) are slow-growing bacteria that are found in surface water, tap water, and soil. Although NTM typically is not harmful, it can – in rare cases – cause infections in patients after their surgery, especially in people with weakened immune systems.
NTM is a very slow growing and difficult to diagnose bacterium. It is possible to develop symptoms years after surgery, so it is important to know the symptoms. Discuss any symptoms or questions you might have with your primary care provider or your cardiologist. Symptoms include:
No. We have notified patients who had surgery at AtlantiCare when the Sorin/ Stöckert® 3T was used.
No. There is no antibiotic treatment to prevent infection. The risk that patients will develop an infection following exposure to a contaminated heater-cooler unit is very low. If you are experiencing symptoms, speak with your primary care provider or cardiac surgeon to let him or her know that you recently had open heart surgery with a heater-cooler the CDC and FDA have noted posed a risk for NTM. There is no test to determine whether a person has been exposed to NTM. A test can identify infection once symptoms begin, but testing results can take up to two months to confirm. Symptoms include:
If your primary care provider, cardiologist or other specialist diagnoses you with an NTM infection, he or she will discuss antibiotic treatment with you.
Testing for NTM should only be done once there are symptoms. Tests do not detect NTM unless symptoms are present.
Testing for NTM is done by submitting blood cultures and/or tissue-biopsy specimens to be sent for culture. Growth of the bacteria can take up to two months.
Yes, however, tests do not detect NTM unless symptoms are present. There is no test for exposure, but there is a test for symptoms. AtlantiCare will provide follow-up care and testing to patients whom we’ve notified as being at increased risk of NTM after surgery, free of charge.
Patients and their families can call AtlantiCare’s 24-hour information hotline number - 609-652-3500 – for additional information or assistance.
The CDC advises the chances of getting this infection are less than 1 percent.
The bacteria, Mycobacterium chimaera, is a species of nontuberculous mycobacterium (NTM) often found in soil and water. In the environment, M. chimaera rarely makes healthy people sick. Patients who have been exposed to the bacteria through surgery can develop general and nonspecific symptoms that can often take months to develop. As a result, diagnosis of these infections can be missed or delayed, sometimes for years, making these infections more difficult to treat. There is no test to determine whether a person has been exposed to the bacteria. Infections can be diagnosed by detecting the bacteria by laboratory culture; the slow growing nature of the bacteria can require up to two months to rule out infection.
Individuals who develop an NTM infection after being exposed are typically those with weakened immune systems. Examples would include those with severe diabetes or heart failure, or who have recently had cancer treatment, or high dose steroid treatment.
The infection can usually be treated successfully once it is identified. Because the bacterium grows slowly, it can take up to several months for it to develop into an infection and years before the infection is diagnosed. Your primary care provider, cardiologist or other specialist would discuss treatment options with you. It is treated by using three to four antibiotics over an extended period of time.
According to the CDC, symptoms of this NTM infection might include
NTM is not spread person-to-person. It is common in soil and water, but rarely makes healthy people sick.
The following websites include more information: