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23 January 2017

Mycobacterium Chimaera infection - Patient Information

There have been a number of recent press articles about the potential contamination of medical equipment used within cardiac surgery which could cause patient harm via a Mycobacterium Chimaera infection.
Mycobacterium Chimaera is a slow-growing environmental bacterium, linked to heater-cooler devices (HCD) which can be dispersed in the air and risk contamination during operations.

Patients should be aware that the risk of infection is very small and there have been no reported cases at Papworth Hospital. We are aware of the potential infection and have actively implemented measures to reduce this risk within our hospital. This is an international concern and we will continue to work closely with NHS England for updates and guidance.

A NHS England have stated that:

"NHS England, Public Health England and the Medicine and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency issued guidance to surgical centres in November 2015 after mycobacterium chimaera infection risk was identified. The guidance clarified both additional decontamination measures and also advised NHS surgical teams to inform patients having these specific types of heart surgery of the possible risk.

"No cases of the infection have been identified in patients who had surgery since this guidance was published, although we are monitoring this closely.  We have also begun a process which will include contacting patients who have had heart valve surgery since January 2013 to make them aware of the potential, but very low, infection risk. If patients are generally well and do not have any symptoms, then they do not need to take any action."

Symptoms of mycobacterium chimaera infection include:

  • Unexplained fevers
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Increasing shortness of breath
  • Waking up with bed sheets showing signs of sweating (night sweats)
  • Joint or muscular pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting or abdominal pain
  • Abnormal levels of tiredness / fatigue Pain
  • Redness, heat and / or pus around the surgical site.

It should be noted that there are other much more common causes for these symptoms so there is no need to be alarmed or to seek emergency treatment.  If you are experiencing any of the specified symptoms, while it is unlikely to be caused by this bacteria, it should be considered as a possibility that needs to be excluded and therefore you should discuss with your GP or contact a Papworth Cardiac Support Nurse on 01480 364100.

This infection cannot be spread person-to-person.

If you are awaiting cardiac surgery and would like further information, you should discuss this with you consultant at your pre-operative appointment.

For more information, please consult see the Public Health England and SCTS websites

If you would like further information from Papworth Hospital, please contact the Medical Director’s office on ext. 4585


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