University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics Notifies Hundreds of Patients of Infection Risk

Published: Feb. 4, 2016 at 12:11 PM CST
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Officials at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics are notifying 1,500 patients about a possible infection risk linked to a machine used during certain heart, lung or liver surgeries.

The patients may have been exposed to a bacterium during certain major surgeries that took place between January 1, 2012 and January 22, 2016, according to a news release. Officials have identified the bacterium as "Non-Tuberculous Mycobacterium" (NTM), a condition that can lead to lung disease and other complications, but rarely is linked to death, according the American Lung Association.

At least one patient at UIHC has developed an NTM infection, according to the hospital. Symptoms include a fever lasting more than a week, pain, redness, heat or pus around a surgical incision, night sweats, joint pain, loss of energy and failure to gain weight or grow in infants. Only an extremely small percentage of people exposed to the bacterium will develop an infection, according to the hospital.

The concern stem from a European study that showed NTM was detected in the air of an operating room while a contaminated heater-cooler device was running. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has notified all U.S. hospitals of a potential bacterium exposure to patients that underwent procedures that required the use of these machines, according to the news release.

UIHC officials initially took the machines out of use. They have since moved them outside of the operating room during surgery.