Due to a contaminated equipment at Children’s Hospital New Orleans, it has been discovered that about a dozen young patients contracted a rare surgical-site infection caused by bacteria after they have had heart surgery at the hospital between late May and July 2017.

Doctors realised there was a problem present when three incision infections were reported within 72 hours. This contaminated equipment comes in the form of a machine, whose main purpose is to regulate the temperature of the patient as the heart surgery is taking place.

As soon as the equipment’s problem has been identified, it was replaced. The hospital proceeded to write and phone families of the infected children to notify them of the bacterial infection and advise them on what needs to be done.

Infected patients showed signs of the symptoms

About 12 patients have already been affected, as they were found to be suffering from the symptoms of this bacterial infection. Symptoms from the mycobacteria infection are drainage at the incision site, swelling, redness and fever.

The hospital’s medical officer, Dr John Heaton, has said that the patients are now undergoing intravenous antibiotics to recover from the mycobacteria infection. A number of them, particularly those who stay far away from the hospital, will be seeing doctors for further check-up.

Heaton mentioned that all expenses to fix this problem are being taken care of by the hospital. These include treatment of the infections, parents’ hotel rooms and meals and other additional costs.

Parents say this is what they feared for

In the meantime, parents of these children say that this is what most of them were worried about when admitting their kids to undergo heart operation at the hospital. Reportedly, other parents have decided to move their children to other hospital upon hearing news of the infection.

One of the parents claimed that the hospital sent her a letter stating that the temperature regulation devices had been contaminated by the manufacturer, as opposed to what the hospital told Local New Orleans TV station WWL-TV.

What is mycobacteria?

According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this type of bacteria is as common in water, soil and dust. The effects of medical devices that have been contaminated are the possibilities of infection of the skin and the presence of soft tissues under the skin.

Heating and cooling unit are known to be responsible for the infection of mycobacteria. Duke University Hospital in Durham has also reported similar cases in which 12 of 24 patients were infected after undergoing heart surgery from December 2014 and June 2015.

The outbreak ended at Duke University Hospital when sterile water was put in the hospital’s bypass machines’ heater-cooler units. It was reported by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that certain bypass machines’ heater-cooler units have been proven to be linked to Mycobacterium chimaera.

According to a Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA), hospital water from the faucet is 10 times more contaminated by bacteria than in other parts of the plumbing system.

The Children’s Hospital New Orleans reportedly used to put in tap water in its unit, but then when the new FDA guidelines came out, the hospital made the switch to filtered water. Since this problem came from the hospital’s equipment, the hospital is taking responsibility for it.

Confirming that the hospital is taking care of the patients’ expenses, Heaton said, “We're picking that up and making it right.... We're going to try and make this as bearable as possible.” MIMS

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