Sinks and an ice machine at the University of Washington’s Medical Center in Seattle tested positive for Legionella bacteria last week; however, as of Monday, officials reported that the bacteria was also found within three CardiQuip heater-cooler machines at the facility. Heater-cooler machines are utilized during heart surgeries to regulate blood temperature.
The machines tested positive for Legionella after an investigation was launched, following four confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease in those that were treated there. Two of these patients have since died.
The federal Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) reported 32 infections associated with heater-cooler machines within the period from January to August 2015, indicating that the transmission of Legionella bacteria from the devices to patients is possible. The FDA believes that contaminated water within the machine can be transmitted through other parts of the device or transmitted through the air. However, no direct link between the presence of the bacteria in the machines at UW and these four cases has yet been found.
Nonetheless, heater-cooler machines like those developed by CardiQuip have been known to allow for the development of bacteria. A $5 million federal class-action lawsuit was filed earlier this year by two men in Pennsylvania against LivaNova, PLC, a London-based company that produces heater-cooler units. The gentlemen claim they were exposed to dangerous nontuberculous mycobacterium (“NTM”) during heart surgery. Allegedly, a design flaw in the machine allowed the NTM bacteria to develop inside. Moreover, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a warning about heater-cooler devices back in 2015.
Tina Mankowski, a spokeswoman for UW Medicine, stated that since the detection of the Legionella bacteria, the heater-cooler machines have been thoroughly cleaned and sanitized, and have not been in use. The facility has nine other heater-cooler units that have tested negative for the bacteria, and those will be used for heart surgeries in the meantime.
Jules Zacher is an attorney in Philadelphia who has tried Legionnaires’ disease cases across the U.S. Please visit LegionnaireLawyer.com again for updates.