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GP’s alerted to the Mycobacterium chimaera outbreak in cardiac patients

Public Health England has this week prompted GP’s to look out for suspected cases of Mycobacterium chimaera (M. chimaera) infection in patients who have previously undergone cardiac surgery and now appear with unexplained symptoms.

The Mycobacterium chimaera (M. chimaera) bacteria has been found to have contaminated Sorin heater cooler units which are part of the cardiopulmonary bypass equipment used in operating theatres where heart valve replacement surgery is conducted.

In the week in which the first claims for compensation for patients in this country were presented to LivaNova the company responsible for the heater cooler units, Public Health England has revealed that it has so far identified 28 cases of Mycobacterium chimaera (M. chimaera) infection following cardiac surgery -mostly heart valve replacement operations. 15 patients are now known to have died. At least 2 inquests have now confirmed deaths have been due to the Mycobacterium chimaera (M.chimaera) contamination. The average interval between surgery and diagnosis in cases identified so far is 19 months but ranges from 3 to 68 months.

It is likely that the number of patients affected has so far been hugely underreported due to the lengthy period between surgery and the onset of symptoms; the fact that by then patients having initially recovered from surgery present to GPs or are referred to doctors of disciplines other than cardio-thoracic who are unlikely to have been aware of Mycobacterium chimaera (M. chimaera) infection, and that until now cardiac patients have not been routinely tested for Mycobacterium chimaera (M. chimaera) infection.

Letters are now being sent out by the Public Health authorities in England, Wales and Scotland to all cardiac surgery patients noted to be at risk.

As Mycobacterium chimaera (M.chimaera) infection following cardiac surgery was first reported as long ago as 2011 the question arises as to why it has taken so long for the medical profession and cardiac surgery patients to be alerted to this worldwide problem with new cases being identified regularly in America, Australia as well as across Europe.

If you or a loved one have been diagnosed as suffering from Mycobacterium chimaera (M. chimaera) infection following heart valve relacement surgery and would like advice on claiming compensation please contact Paul Balen.


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