HEALTH

12 children diagnosed with rare surgical infection after heart surgery in a New Orleans hospital

The hospital’s vice president and chief medical office, John Heaton, told The New Orleans Advocate that his staff was ‘able to jump on this pretty quickly,’ and that the infection is treatable.    

The hospital is taking measures to evaluate other patients that may have been affected, in addition to the 12 already identified. 

Children’s Hospital has contacted at least 55 other patients who have undergone cardiac surgery there in the last several months, and set up a hotline for any other families that are concerned their children might be affected.

Rachel Pagnan, whose daughter had heart surgery at the hospital in January of 2015 said that she received a letter from Children’s Hospital last December, notifying her that the temperature regulation devices had been contaminated. But, she said, the letter then claimed that the machines had been contaminated by the manufacturer. 

‘This is what most of us heart parents were worried about!’ Pagnan said in a Facebook post.  She told Mail Online that she and many of the other parents of children under cardiac care at the New Orleans hospital have moved their kids to other hospitals. 

What is myobacterium abcesssus?  

The bacterium (often referred to as m. abcessus) is commonly found in soil, water and dust. 

It has been known to affect medications and medical products including medical devices like the machine at Children’s Hospital. 

M. abcessus can cause skin and respiratory infections, and, in rare cases, central nervous system infections. 

Infections from the bacteria are tricky to treat, requiring a a combination of therapies, administered both through IVs and as oral medication.

Children’s Hospital is now claiming that the contamination came from tap water. Local New Orleans TV station WWL-TV reported that the hospital has now switched to using filtered water, but had previously used tap.

‘Why on earth would they have ever used tap water for something as serious as open heart surgery?’ Pagnan wonders.  

In 2014, a Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) study found that hospital water was 10 times more contaminated by bacteria at the faucet than in other parts of the plumbing system.

The study found that water that bacteria could thrive in water that is heated and cooled and not precisely controlled, such as taps. 

When the heating and cooling devices were inspected following last years myobacteria chimaera outbreak, researchers suspected water droplets in the devices’ reservoirs were aerated, the droplets escaped into the operating rooms and carried that bacteria into the air. 

In a press release, Children’s Hospital said that the children developed the infection in mid-August. It also said that it traced the source of the infection to one particular temperature regulation medical device used during bypass, in one particular operating room.

Last October, the CDC said that more than half a million heart surgery patients were exposed contamination through the very same kinds of medical devices. 

The bacteria the CDC identified the was was called myobacteria chimaera. The contaminated devices were linked to at least 28 deaths that year.

Heaton told The Advocate that those affected in this outbreak were isolated to a ‘small minority’ of patients that underwent an operation in that room, between May and July of this year. The infected devise has been decontaminated and disposed of, and the room has been ‘terminally disinfected,’ Heaton said. 

This is not the first time the hospital has come under fire for an outbreak, though of a different infection.

Children’s Hospital says that it has never had an outbreak of this particular infection before and that it would not charge patients for evaluation or treatment related to the myobacterium abcessus outbreak. 

But, the hospital failed to notify families of several children that passed away between 2008 and 2009 that their deaths were caused by a rare flesh-eating fungal infection that they contracted while hospitalized, the Advocate reported. The hospital only notified the families after the outbreak and its outcomes were documented in a medical journal.

The hospital has set up a hotline for families to call if they have questions or concerns that their children may have contracted the infection (504-896-2920). 

Read more:

  • Children’s Hospital in New Orleans says 12 patients contracted rare infection after recent heart surgeries | News | theadvocate.com
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  • wwltv.com | 12 children treated for serious infection after heart surgery at Children’s Hospital

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