A study done by Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers says that medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States.
This past Thursday, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention made it known that contaminated medical devices used during open-heart surgeries could be responsible for infections in patients in both the United States and Europe.
Patients go in to fix one problem, and come out with another.
CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report showed at least 11 patients in the U.S. who were infected with bacteria (Mycobacterium chimaera, found in soil and water) from Stöckert 3T heater-cooler devices, which are meant to maintain the patients’ internal temperatures during surgery. Past data suggested that six people in Switzerland were also infected and many Americans have exhibited symptoms.
Due to the estimated 250,000 patients who have heart bypass procedures using this specific device each year, the CDC issued an advisory. They encouraged hospitals to take action and for all patients who have undergone open-heart surgeries since 2012 to get medical care if they are exhibiting any infection symptoms.
The advisory states that the data suggests that patients who had valves or prosthetic products implanted are at higher risk for infections. “While these infections can be severe, and some patients in this investigation have died, it is unclear whether the infection was a direct cause of death.”
Here’s the problem: the heater-cooler devices are essential to life-saving procedures.
My question is how can an instrument so vital be contaminated during manufacturing? Shouldn’t there have been preventative measures taken from the very beginning? And how can we be sure that there aren’t several other medical devices worldwide that are similarly contaminated?
It is evident that now, after a year of concerns, everyone involved is doing what they can to resolve the issue. But until then, the devices are still going to be used because without them surgeons cannot perform open-heart surgeries and without open-heart surgeries patients are at a greater risk for death.
Technology is key in today’s medical world – but it is counterproductive if healthcare providers use it to treat one life threatening issue with the danger of creating another.