York hospital says 1,300 open-heart surgery patients have possible infection risk

YORK, Pa. (WHTM) – WellSpan York Hospital is notifying about 1,300 patients who had open-heart surgeries during the past four years that they may have been exposed to bacteria.

Hospital officials said eight patients had infections that have been since linked to heart bypass machines with heater-cooler devices. The infections occurred months and sometimes years after their surgeries.

Four of the patients have since died. Officials said while their deaths have not been directly linked to the heater-cooler devices, it is likely a contributing factor.

The highest risk is believed to be limited to patients who underwent open-heart surgery at WellSpan York Hospital between October 1, 2011 and July 24, 2015.

Hospital officials said the infection has been identified in less than one percent of patients who had open-heart surgery during this time.

Patients who had other, noninvasive heart procedures – such as stents, pacemakers, defibrillators and ablations – are not at risk.

The heart bypass machines with heater-cooler devices were linked to the previously unknown risk of infection in a study published in July in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

The bacterium is not contagious and infections can usually be treated successfully once identified, officials said.

The hospital has set up a website, www.WellSpan.org/yorkopenheart, and a toll-free nurse call center (866-217-2970), to answer questions from patients 24 hours a day.

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