The Sorin 3T Heater-Cooler class action lawsuit affects an estimated 60% of patients who have undergone open chest surgery since 2012. A recent investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention matched bacterial contamination from the devices to bacterial infections in patients in several states. Considering that just one type of open chest surgery, cardiac bypass, is performed a quarter of million times each year, it is possible that millions of patients have been exposed to the harmful bacteria known as mycobacterium chimaera.
What is mycobacterium chimaera?
Mycobacterium refers to a family of bacteria that act as pathogens in human hosts. The family includes species like Mycobacterium tuberculosis (which causes tuberculosis) and Mycobacterium leprae (which causes leprosy). While not all Mycobacterium cause serious medical issues in humans, they do all have one thing in common; the infections they cause are notoriously difficult to treat.
There are several features that all Mycobacterium share that make diagnosis and treatment extremely difficult. C. perfringens is one of the fastest growing bacteria; it divides about every 10 minutes, meaning that a culture could have visible results within 24 hours. M. chimaera, on the other hand, divides about every 20 days. Infections won’t show up on standard cultures and can take years to become apparent in patients. Confirmation requires a specific blood test that isn’t part of a normal post-operative panel.
In addition, all Mycobacterium have an extremely tough cell wall composed of three layers, each with different protective properties. The organism isn’t picky; it grows easily in nearly any environment. These characteristics make treatment a nightmare for both doctors and patients after a diagnosis has confirmed a Mycobacterium infection. The thick cell wall and high tolerability for growing conditions make the bacteria naturally resistant to common antibiotics; worse, any treatment that would quickly kill the bacteria would just as quickly kill the host.
Treatment might require surgery
The Sorin 3T Heater-Cooler System exposes open-chest surgery patients to not just one but two different types of mycobacteria, virtually doubling the risk of contamination and infection. These slow growing organisms can take more than a year to cause outward symptoms like cough, weight loss, weakness or fatigue, night sweats, fever and chills and loss of appetite. Treating the infection takes high doses of medication; if an implant is the source, surgical removal might be the only option.
If you suspect that your loved one was one of the millions potentially exposed to infection from a Sorin 3T Heater-Cooler System during surgery, contact the experienced South Carolina Sorin 3T attorneys at McGowan, Hood & Felder, LLC today. For a free consultation, call 888-302-7546 or contact us today.