The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are investigating reports that a device used to heat and cool the blood during open-heart surgery has been linked to a rare bacterial infection caused by Mycobacterium chimaera, a type of bacteria known as nontuberculous mycobacterium (NTM). This is a nation-wide issue and all hospitals in Chattanooga use the same device to heat and cool the blood during open-heart surgery. However, we do know that the chances of getting this infection are very low. In fact, the CDC estimates the risk to be less than 1 percent. Also, the CDC notes that if your surgery was more than two years ago and you are not having any symptoms, you do not need to worry about this infection. Of the more than 3,200 patients at CHI Memorial who have had open-heart surgery from 2012 to 2016, there have been no reports of patients who developed this surgical site infection.
Because this infection is very slow growing and difficult to diagnose, we want to ensure that you are informed of all related symptoms. The CDC has shared that it is possible to develop symptoms years after surgery, so it is important to discuss any symptoms or questions you may have with your primary care doctor. Please take a copy of this letter with you on your next physician office visit. This infection cannot be spread person-to-person.
Symptoms of an NTM infection include:
We understand that you and your family might have additional questions or concerns about this information. To help answer them, we have established a hotline at 423-495-7801. The hotline will allow you to leave a message so our team may call you back with answers. You may also click here for frequently asked questions about Non-tuberculous Mycobacterium (NTM). CDC's video for heart surgery patients is below.