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Information for Health Care Professionals

For Providers

Important Information About Infection Risk for Heart and Lung Surgery Patients

This web page is intended to provide health care professionals with information regarding potential Nontuberculous Mycobacteria (NTM) infection of open-heart surgery and heart or lung transplant patients. This website will be updated on a regular basis as new information becomes available.

If you have a clinical question pertaining to one of your patients, or if you have a patient who requires additional evaluation for potential exposure to NTM, please call our toll-free nurse triage line at 844.689.2875. One of our nurses will connect you to a clinician at our specialized NTM clinic. We recommend that you refer any patients who require evaluation to our specialized clinic.

A Message to Providers

We want to let you know of steps we are taking to address an issue that is affecting hospitals across the U.S. and Europe—an issue that your patients or others in the community may contact you about. 

  • The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) each have recently issued safety advisories regarding the potential risk of infection associated with heater-cooler devices in certain heart and lung surgeries. Health care providers across the U.S. have been alerted to the potential link between a type of bacteria that can grow in these devices and infections in patients.

  • While the risk of infection is very low—less than one percent—Spectrum Health and Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital are informing patients of these safety advisories and the possible risk of infection linked to these devices.

  • A potential for bacterial contaminant has been identified in the water reservoir of the heater-cooler devices used during cardiopulmonary bypass surgeries. Surgical site contamination may result from the bacteria becoming aerosolized while the heater-cooler devices are in use, which may lead to infection.

  • The specific bacterium has been identified by the CDC as Mycobacterium chimaera, a Nontuberculous Mycobacteria (NTM), part of the Mycobacterium Avium Complex. It is commonly found in soil and water. Although NTM generally does not cause infection in immunocompetent patients, it has been identified in cases where these patients have undergone surgeries requiring cardiopulmonary bypass with heater-cooler devices.

  • Symptoms for this NTM infection include: fever greater than 100 degrees for more than one week, shaking chills, fatigue that cannot be explained by activity or lack of sleep, new onset of joint or back pain, jaundice, unintended weight loss or wound drainage from the site of surgery.

  • Diagnosis may be made up to four years after the surgery because symptoms of infection may take months, even years, to appear. In addition, the diagnosis requires special cultures. We are notifying patients who had surgeries involving a cardiopulmonary bypass device between January 1, 2012 and November 10, 2015.

We have taken the following steps:

  • Activated a dedicated phone line (844.689.2875 or 616.391.9986) staffed by registered nurses who will answer patient questions and assist patients in scheduling appointments as necessary. If you have questions, please use the same phone lines and your call with be directed to the appropriate clinician.

  • Established a special clinic to evaluate patients for NTM and treat them as appropriate.

  • Replaced all heater-cooler machines to minimize the risk of patient exposure to NTM.

  • Started an ongoing monitoring process that exceeds the standard equipment requirements and will help avoid future risk of infection.

We appreciate your support as we meet the needs of patients.

Additional Resources

European Resources