Mycobacterial infections

June 10, 2015

Public Health England announced on the 10th June that it is working with the NHS, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and NHS England to investigate a small number of mycobacterial infections potentially associated with heater cooler units used during cardiopulmonary bypass for cardiac surgery. Commenting on the announcement, a spokesperson for the Society for Cardiothoracic Surgery said:

“We take any risk to patients seriously. We are therefore concerned that a very small number of patients may have contracted mycobacterium infections during surgery to replace or repair a heart valve.

“In England, every year cardiac surgeons perform around 20,000 surgical procedures involving cardiopulmonary bypass for value replacement or repair, and have some of the best success rates in Europe. The additional risk from this infection is very low. However the risk from delaying surgery will usually far outweigh this specific infection risk*. Any concerned patients should talk to their surgeon in the first instance. “The Society for Cardiothoracic Surgery will work with the NHS England, Public Health England and the devolved governments to support hospitals who should test for any infection risk and work with the manufacturer to take appropriate action.”

Notes to editors

*Based on a North American study regarding the impact of waiting time on heart valve surgery in 2014 the SCTS have estimated that the risk of delaying heart valve surgery is ten times greater than the risk of being infected with this bacteria. The risks of delaying surgery are significantly greater due to the risks of sudden death, heart failure or a general deterioration in health status.

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