LHSC notifying open heart surgery patients of extremely low risk of infection


For Immediate Release

January 10, 2017


(LONDON, Ontario) –London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) is notifying approximately 2,200 former open heart surgery adult patients of the extremely low risk of infection related to potential exposure to bacteria during their procedure.

Heater-cooler units are used to heat and cool blood during open heart surgery. Some of these units have been linked to a Mycobacterium chimaera infection according to safety alerts issued to hospitals across North America by Health Canada and Public Health Ontario and the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the United States.

Letters have been mailed to patients advising them of the situation, and letting them know who to contact should they have any questions or concerns. “The health of our patients is our first priority and although the risk of infection is extremely low, we want to ensure patients know about the situation and advise them to monitor for symptoms,” says Dr. Bob Kiaii, cardiac surgeon, LHSC.

Mycobacterium chimaera infection is not contagious, but it can typically take months or even years to develop, making it difficult to diagnose.

“Thankfully, the risk of infection is less than one per cent and the risks of not having the surgery far outweigh the risk of infection,” says Dr. Michael John, director, infection prevention and control, LHSC. “We took immediate steps to update all of our protocols for the device based on new recommendations and we are not aware of any patients who have developed this infection following open heart surgery at LHSC to date.”

Individuals who have had open heart surgery at LHSC should monitor for the following symptoms:

  • Night sweats
  • Muscle aches
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Unexplained fever and redness, heat, or pus around the sternal surgical incision

Patients with any of the symptoms or who have been diagnosed with sarcoidosis since their heart surgery are advised to contact their family physician. Patients can also contact the hospital at 1-844-358-1050 between the hours of 9:00am and 5:00pm, Monday to Friday.

LHSC is monitoring the situation very closely and will continue to follow Health Canada’s guidance and direction related to the use of heater-cooler units.

About London Health Science Centre
London Health Sciences Centre has been at the forefront of medicine in Canada for 142 years and offers the broadest range of specialized clinical services in Ontario. Building on the traditions of its founding hospitals to provide compassionate care in an academic teaching setting, London Health Sciences Centre is home to Children’s Hospital, University Hospital, Victoria Hospital, the Kidney Care Centre, two family medical centres, and two research institutes – Children’s Health Research Institute and Lawson Health Research Institute. As a leader in medical discovery and health research, London Health Sciences Centre has a history of over 65 international and national firsts and attracts top clinicians and researchers from around the world. As a regional referral centre, London Health Sciences Centre cares for the most medically complex patients including critically injured adults and children in southwestern Ontario and beyond. The hospital’s nearly 15,000 staff, physicians, students and volunteers provide care for more than one million patient visits a year. For more information visit www.lhsc.on.ca


For media inquiries contact:

Marek Kubow
Corporate Communications and Public Relations
London Health Sciences Centre
519-685-8500, ext. 75155

After-hours and weekend assistance:

Call LHSC Switchboard at 519-685-8500 and ask to page the communication consultant on-call.


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