NHS to notify heart surgery patients of small risk of infection caused by heater cooler units
The NHS is today (Tuesday 21 March) taking the precautionary step of writing to patients who have had certain types of open heart surgery to inform them that they may have a low risk of having contracted an infection caused by Mycobacterium chimaera (M. chimaera).
Over the next two weeks, letters are being sent to patients in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales who have had heart valve replacement or valve repair surgery, including procedures undertaken as part of congenital heart disease surgery, since January 2013.
This is a world-wide issue and NHS England, Public Health England and the Medicine and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency issued guidance to surgical centres in November 2015 after Mycobacterium chimaera infection risk was identified. No cases of the infection have been identified in patients who had surgery since this guidance was published, but the situation is being monitored closely.
The advice follows information indicating that some heater-cooler devices, which are used to help keep a patient’s blood and organs at a specific temperature during surgery, might be contaminated by M chimaera and could therefore put patients at risk of infection.
This is a precautionary exercise. The risk of contracting the infection is considered low, and it cannot be spread from person-to-person. There is no need for those who have already had valve replacement or repair surgery to be concerned unless they experience symptoms of infection, which include:
- Unexplained fevers or night sweats (waking up with bed sheets showing signs of sweating)
- Unexplained weight loss
- Increasing shortness of breath
- Joint or muscle pain
- Nausea, vomiting or abdominal pain
- Abnormal levels of tiredness/fatigue
- Pain, redness, heat or pus around the surgical site.
Patients with these symptoms – for which there are much more common causes – should not be alarmed or seek emergency treatment, but should contact their doctor, even if their surgery was many years ago.
Patients who have had other types of open heart surgery have a minimal risk of contracting this infection and are not being proactively contacted, but should contact their GP if they experience these symptoms.
The risk of contracting an infection is far lower than the risk of delaying life-saving cardiac surgery, but any patients with concerns are encouraged to discuss them with their surgeon or care team.
Latest News from
NHS to launch ground breaking online COVID-19 rehab service06/07/2020 16:15:00
Tens of thousands of people who are suffering long-term effects of coronavirus will benefit from a revolutionary on-demand recovery service, the head of the NHS yesterday announced.
NHS and St John Ambulance to recruit and train thousands of cadets06/07/2020 11:15:00
The NHS and St John Ambulance are joining forces for the NHS’ anniversary to recruit and train thousands of ‘NHS cadets’.
Around one million downloads of fitness app during lockdown as people stay fit02/07/2020 09:15:00
A fitness tool backed by the NHS has been adopted by hundreds of thousands of people seeking to get in shape during lockdown.
NHS patients among first in Europe to benefit from landmark deal for cystic fibrosis treatment01/07/2020 14:15:00
NHS patients in England will be some of the first people in Europe to benefit from a new “truly life-transforming” treatment for cystic fibrosis, health service chief executive Sir Simon Stevens yesterday announced.
Rankin unveils powerful portrait series dedicated to frontline staff to mark NHS birthday30/06/2020 09:15:00
Powerful and personal portraits of doctors, nurses and other NHS staff who responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, captured by acclaimed photographer Rankin, were yesterday unveiled to celebrate the NHS birthday.
NHS boosts support for pregnant black and ethnic minority women29/06/2020 14:15:00
The NHS is rolling out additional support for pregnant Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority (BAME) women, as new research shows heightened risks facing women from minority groups.
LGBT+ staff and allies launch first NHS virtual pride25/06/2020 14:15:00
NHS colleagues from across the country are being invited to enjoy an unprecedented online celebration of the LGBT+ community this Friday evening.
NHS Chief Executive pays tribute to “essential contribution” of Windrush generation23/06/2020 09:15:00
The head of the NHS in England Sir Simon Stevens yesterday marked Windrush Day 2020 by committing the NHS to drive further improvements in race equality across the health service.