Adult patients who received open-heart surgery within the Saskatoon Health Region (SHR) between 2011-2016 are at risk for a potential infection.
While the risk is low, SHR is letting patients know about the possible infection, which is related to a device used to heat and cool the blood during surgery.
The devices are essential to performing open-heart surgeries and are routinely used in hospitals throughout Canada, the United States and Europe.
“For most patients, the benefits of undergoing heart surgery far outweigh any remote risk of infection,” said Dr. Greg Dalshaug, Saskatoon Health Region’s division head of Cardiac Surgery, in a news release Thursday.
“As a precautionary measure, and because safety is our highest priority, we are notifying patients and healthcare providers of this potential risk.”
All patients who received open-heart surgery since 2011 are being contacted by letter to explain the potential risk and associated symptoms of infection. Physicians throughout the province are also being notified.
In a news release Thursday, the SHR said health agencies in the U.S. and Canada have been investigating reports the device is linked to a rare bacterial infection.
According to the SHR, for patients who have had open-heart surgery, the chance of getting the infection is less than one per cent.
More than 2,173 patients have undergone open-heart surgery over the last five years in Saskatoon and, to date, none have been diagnosed with this infection. There are also no known infections in Saskatchewan.
The type of bacteria, known as nontuberculous mycobacterium, is commonly found throughout nature in water and soil – and is not known to cause human disease, except for those with weak immune systems.
Currently, there is no way to screen whether someone has been exposed to the bacteria, and infection symptoms can develop months – or years – after surgery.
To date, investigations show the devices were likely unknowingly contaminated with bacteria during the manufacturing process. Environmental testing at the manufacturing site identified contamination of water tanks and the pump assembly area of the facility.
The infection is not contagious and cannot be spread person to person. Patients who received a pacemaker or defibrillator, cardiac catheterizations or angioplasties are not at risk.
Symptoms of the bacterial infection, which can be confused with influenza, may include unexplained fever and at least two of the following: night sweats, muscle aches, weight loss or fatigue. Patients who experience the combination of symptoms for more than one week should contact their primary care physician.
Patients with questions or concerns may contact Saskatoon Health Region Client Representative Services at 306-655-0250, 1-866-655-5066, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.saskatoonhealthregion.ca/PatientNotices.