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Freeths lawyer urges NHS to update its warnings of deadly bug which can affect heart operation patients’ years after surgery

Clinical Negligence consultant Paul Balen, of national law firm Freeths has urged the NHS to update its warnings of the risk caused by the deadly mycobacterium chimaera infection to patients who had heart valve surgery as far back as 2005.

Contaminated LivaNova heater cooler units
This comes after a series of inquests into deaths highlighted that doctors and patients were unaware of the risk caused by mycobacterium chimaera released from contaminated LivaNova heater cooler units (HCU) used in heart operations culminating in the latest inquest verdict of neglect.

Bacterium can lay dormant for over 13 years
New evidence shows the bacterium can lay dormant in the body for over 13 years, much longer than previously thought. Spotted early enough M.chimaera can be successfully treated with antibiotics. However, if left untreated, the infection can spread, causing life threatening complications.

Paul, who has acted for many victims and their families, said: “All patients who have undergone open heart surgery using LivaNova HCUs since 2005 and their doctors should be warned by the NHS of this danger.”

HCUs are used during surgery to regulate the temperature of blood as it is passed outside the body to be pumped with an artificial heart, while the organ is temporarily stopped. It is thought that there are now 33 deaths from a recorded 49 cases.

Inquest demonstrates need for warning alert on patient records
Paul added: “Coroners are being repeatedly told that doctors were unaware of this rare illness. If nothing else this inquest demonstrates the need for all patients who had undergone open heart surgery after 2005 at hospitals using LivaNova heater cooler units having a warning alert placed on their patient records so doctors are aware of the issue. If further lives can be saved as a result the exercise would be worthwhile.”

Q: Should I be worried about mycobacterium chimaera following the recent inquests?
We are of course lawyers not doctors and only act for patients or their relatives where there is a confirmed diagnosis of mycobacterium chimaera. Please rely on the advice/diagnosis given by doctors, but if you suffer from an unexplained illness with symptoms as explained in the existing NHS guidance and you have had a heart operation between 2005 and 2017, do remind your doctor of this problem as most doctors seem unaware of it – hence the request for the NHS to alert doctors of the small but serious risk involved.

Q: I have had a confirmed diagnosis of mycobacterium chimaera. What should I do?
Contact us by completing our enquiry form below and one of our lawyers dealing with mycobacterium chimaera will be in touch with you.

Claims against mycobacterium chimaera infection

The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the date of publication and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.

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