Published On: Tue, Nov 29th, 2016

Canada: Heart surgery patients contacted about Mycobacterium chimaera risk in Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) and the IWK Health Centre are currently in the process of contacting patients about a potential but very low risk of infection related to heart surgeries that have been completed in this province over the past four years.

Image/John Fowler

Image/John Fowler

Devices that have been used since 2012 within NSHA and 2010 at the IWK to heat and cool blood during heart surgeries have been linked in other jurisdictions to a rare bacterial infection caused by Mycobacterium chimaera, a type of bacteria commonly referred to as non-tuberculous mycobacteria, or NTM.

This bacteria may have been present in machines during the manufacturing of these heater-cooler devices. There is a slight possibility that contaminated water contained in these devices has been transferred through the air into operating rooms, at the IWK Health Centre and NSHA’s QEII Health Sciences Centre, both in Halifax.

Many hospitals across the country, as well as in the United States and Europe, use these heater-cooler devices during heart surgeries and are experiencing the same concerns.

The chances of a patient becoming infected as a result of non-tuberculous mycobacteria are very low, less than one per cent. Both the IWK Health Centre and NSHA want to ensure all potentially impacted patients are informed of this newfound low risk associated with heart surgeries and some other related procedures.

Neither the IWK Health Centre nor NSHA is aware of any patients who have developed this infection following heart surgery. Both organizations have followed all recommendations made by both the manufacturer of these devices and Health Canada.

All Nova Scotia patients who have been exposed to this heater-cooler device will receive a letter in their mailbox in the near future, if they have not received one already.

Patients and families should discuss any concerns with their family doctors.

Nova Scotia Health Authority has a toll-free line available at 1-844-874-0122, where patients with questions and concerns can leave a message with their name and phone number. All calls will be returned within 48 hours. Visit nshealth.ca for more information.

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