Surgical equipment used in open heart surgeries and liver transplants may have been contaminated by the manufacturer.
While infections are rare, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is asking doctors and patients to be vigilant.
More than 250,000 Americans get heart surgery every year and more than half of hospitals use a heating-cooling machine that may have been contaminated with bacteria when it was manufactured.
The bacteria take months or years to grow and cause problems. Patients who have had open heart surgery need to be vigilant for symptoms of infection: Fever, pain, night sweats, fatigue and loss of appetite.
Dr. Michael Bell with the CDC says fans on the machines can blow bacteria into the operating room.
“The problem with that is if those bacteria land on a heart valve that’s about to be implanted or into the surgical wound, there’s a possibility of it causing infection.”
Infections are rare … and serious infections rarer still. But several patients have died, although it’s not clear what role the infection played in their deaths.