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Indiana hospitals alert heart surgery patients of possible life-threatening infection

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Thousands of Hoosier heart patients are receiving word from area hospitals about their risk of a deadly infection after surgery.

IU Health, Franciscan Health, Community Health, and Roudebush VA Medical Center are alerting their patients who had heart surgery between 2012 and 2016 and where the Stöckert 3T heater-cooler device was used. The CDC says the units may have been contaminated with a rare bacteria during manufacturing.

"The machine circulates cold water that keeps the heart cold during the operation so that it’s not damaged. And similarly the warm side keeps the heating blankets warm so that the patient doesn’t get too cold," explains Dr. Michael Bell with the CDC. "Researchers have found the fan on the heater cooler unit machine is able to blow bacteria from inside the machine into the operating room. The problem with that is if those bacteria land on a heart valve that is about to be implanted or into the surgical wound there’s a possibility of it causing an infection."

While the risk of infection is low, the CDC reports at least 12 people have died worldwide.

There are no reports of infection related to this device in Indiana yet.

Doctors want surgery patients to pay attention to how they feel following surgery. Symptoms of the infection are fever, night sweats, weight loss, fatigue, loss of appetite, and non-specific pain in the area. If you feel ill following surgery, you should contact your doctor immediately.

Eskenazi and St. Vincent Hospitals did not use this device. Hospitals which have used the device include:

IU Health Methodist

IU Health University

IU Health Arnett

IU Health Bloomington

Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health

Franciscan Health Indianapolis

Franciscan Health Crown Point

Franciscan Health Lafayette

Community Heart and Vascular Hospital

Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center

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