Cardiac Surgery - Information Regarding Potential Infection Risk Following Open Heart Surgery

Recently, you may have heard about issues with a device commonly used in open heart surgeries in Canada, the US and Europe. This device, which is used to heat and cool blood during surgery, has been linked to a rare infection caused by a type of bacteria called Mycobacterium Chimaera.

The chances of getting this infection are so low (less than one percent) that, normally, it would not be necessary to advise you about it prior to surgery. However, because of the attention raised about this risk in recent weeks, we want to ensure our patients feel informed about and have the opportunity to ask questions prior to surgery.

Symptoms of infection may appear several months or years after surgery and may include: night sweats; muscle aches; weight loss; fatigue; unexplained fever; and redness, heat, or pus around the cut in your chest (sternal surgical incision). Following your discharge from hospital after surgery, if you experience these symptoms for more than a week, please contact your family physician; if you experience severe symptoms, please seek medical attention immediately.

We have implemented several strategies to mitigate the risk associated with this bacteria, including compliance with safety measures recommended by Health Canada and the manufacturer, and communicating with health care providers and patients to increase awareness of this risk.