NSHA and IWK Health Centre contacting heart surgery patients about potential low risk of infection due to heater-cooler devices

Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) and the IWK Health Centre are currently in the process of contacting patients about a potential but very low risk of infection related to heart surgeries that have been completed in this province over the past four years.

Devices that have been used since 2012 within NSHA and 2010 at the IWK to heat and cool blood during heart surgeries have been linked in other jurisdictions to a rare bacterial infection caused by Mycobacterium chimaera, a type of bacteria commonly referred to as non-tuberculous mycobacteria, or NTM.

This bacteria may have been present in machines during the manufacturing of these heater-cooler devices. There is a slight possibility that contaminated water contained in these devices has been transferred through the air into operating rooms, at the IWK Health Centre and NSHA’s QEII Health Sciences Centre, both in Halifax.

Many hospitals across the country, as well as in the United States and Europe, use these heater-cooler devices during heart surgeries and are experiencing the same concerns.

The chances of a patient becoming infected as a result of non-tuberculous mycobacteria are very low, less than one per cent. Both the IWK Health Centre and NSHA want to ensure all potentially impacted patients are informed of this newfound low risk associated with heart surgeries and some other related procedures.

Neither the IWK Health Centre nor NSHA is aware of any patients who have developed this infection following heart surgery. Both organizations have followed all recommendations made by both the manufacturer of these devices and Health Canada.

All Nova Scotia patients who have been exposed to this heater-cooler device will receive a letter in their mailbox in the near future, if they have not received one already.

Patients and families should discuss any concerns with their family doctors.

Nova Scotia Health Authority has a toll-free line available at 1-844-874-0122, where patients with questions and concerns can leave a message with their name and phone number. All calls will be returned within 48 hours. Visit nshealth.ca for more information.

IWK Health Centre cardiac patients and families who have questions or concerns can contact the toll-free feedback line at 1-855-495-2273 (IWK CARE) or the Halifax local number at 902-470-7435. You will be asked to leave your name and phone number and your call will be returned within 48 hours. Alternatively, you can send an email to feedback@iwk.nshealth.ca. Visit iwk.nshealth.ca for more information.


For media requests, please contact:

Nick Cox
Senior Advisor, Government Relations & Issues Management
Communications & Public Affairs
IWK Health Centre

Office: (902) 470-6345
Cell: (902) 470-225-1781

Kristen Lipscombe
Senior Advisor, Media Relations
Communications & Public Relations
Nova Scotia Health Authority
Cell: (902) 478-9736
Toll free: 1-844-483-3344