For Patients

Important Information About Infection Risk for Heart and Lung Surgery Patients

This web page is intended to provide patients with information and offer additional resources regarding a possible risk of infection. We are fully committed to providing you with all the information, care and treatment you need regarding this matter.

  • 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 the use of 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. . 
  • The risk of infection is very low—less than one percent. However, we are informing patients of these safety advisories and the possible risk of infection linked to these devices. 
  • The bacterium associated with this infection is Nontuberculous Mycobacteria (NTM). The NTM bacterium is commonly found in nature and is usually not harmful. But, in some cases, it can lead to infections in patients who had certain surgeries. 
  • Because the NTM bacterium grows slowly, it can take several months or years to develop into an infection. Therefore, we are informing patients who had surgery between January 1, 2012 and November 10, 2015 at Spectrum Health. The infection is not contagious and cannot be spread to your family and friends. 
  • Again, the risk of infection is extremely low. If you have questions regarding this matter, please call our nurse phone line 844.689.2875 or 616.391.9986

We have taken the following steps:

  • Established a special clinic to evaluate patients as needed for NTM and treat them as appropriate.
  • Replaced our heater-cooler machines to help minimize the risk for our patients.
  • Started an ongoing monitoring process that exceeds the standard equipment requirements and will help avoid future risk of infection.

Our clinical staff is prepared to answer questions and schedule an in-person visit, if required.

For more information, please read these Frequently Asked Questions and review NTM symptoms.

Additional Resources