If there is evidence linking your nontuberculous-Mycobacterium (NTM) to a medical product, you can sue for compensation.

Mycobacterium chimaera infections can cause the following health problems:

  • pneumonia (lung infection);
  • endocarditis (heart lining and valve infection)
  • surgical site infection;
  • abscess (confined pocket of puss in the area of the surgical site);
  • bacteremia (bacteria in the blood);
  • hepatitis (can cause liver damage)
  • renal (kidney) problems;
  • splenomegaly (enlarged spleen);
  • pancytopenia (decrease of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets);
  • osteomyelitis (bone infection);
  • granulomatous disease (masses of immune cells form, causing immunodeficiency).

For additional information, please see the following:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) investigated several outbreaks of infections that were linked to exposures to certain heater-cooler devices during cardiac surgery.  The CDC determined that these devices were likely contaminated with a dangerous type of NTM called Mycobacterium chimaera during manufacturing. This is evidence that can be used in a lawsuit to hold the company responsible for illness and wrongful death caused by these infections.

If you or a loved one has any of these symptoms after open-heart surgery, you should see your doctor. You should have received a letter from the hospital where you had your surgery regarding your risk for infection and these symptoms. The letter should have also warned you that a Mycobacterium chimaera infection is very slow growing and difficult to diagnose. It is possible to develop the above symptoms years after surgery, so you will need to watch for these symptoms for years.

You should also have received a letter to bring to your doctor regarding these infections. This letter should have been sent to you by the hospital where you had your surgery. The letter provides information your doctor may need to make a diagnosis.

The FDA has stated that the agency is “aware that the use of heater-cooler devices has been associated with Nontuberculous Mycobacteria (NTM) infections, primarily in patients undergoing cardiothoracic surgical procedures.”

An FDA analysis has identified potential root causes of contamination from certain heater-cooler devices, including:

  1. NTM bacteria can grow in a water tank that is part some water-cooler designs, according to the FDA. The contaminated water can then be transmitted into the air and, from there, to the patient’s open chest.
  2. “Fans are found on most units and are usually used to cool the unit and/or aid in the cooling efficiency of a compressor. These fans may facilitate the movement of aerosolized NTM from the inside of the unit into the operating room, and possibly into the sterile surgical field” (FDA).
  3. One study, utilizing a single heater-cooler unit, suggests that the device’s exhaust fan, depending on the distance and direction of the exhaust, may disrupt the protective nature of the laminar air flow above the patient. The authors of this study hypothesized NTM that is airborne may then be carried into the surgical field” (FDA).

Once seeded in the body, NTM bacteria can slowly multiply, and over the course of months, or even years, overcome the body’s defenses, and may eventually kill unsuspecting patients.

Bacteria