News State NSW News Sydney patient infected by contaminated heart surgery equipment

Sydney patient infected by contaminated heart surgery equipment

Prince of Wales hospital
This is the second case of infection from equipment at Prince of Wales hospital. Photo: AAP
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A second case of infection from contaminated heart surgery equipment has been confirmed at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney.

New South Wales Health issued an alert last year for patients who may have been infected with the rare mycobacterium chimaera at several hospitals.

Health officials have confirmed a man aged in his 40s as the latest confirmed case of infection, after he underwent heart surgery at the Randwick hospital.

The health department’s director of the communicable diseases branch, Vicky Sheppeard, said the man was undergoing extensive treatment.

“The treatment for mycobacterium chimaera lasts several months at least,” Dr Sheppeard said.

“We do know that the man is responding to these specific antibiotics and he will remain under treatment and care for some months.”

Earlier this month a woman in her 80s was identified as the state’s first confirmed case of infection, having also undergone surgery at Prince of Wales Hospital in 2015.

More than 70 cases of infection have been recorded around the world, sourced to machines contaminated with the bacterium during their manufacture in Europe.

The Prince of Wales Hospital, St George Hospital, The Children’s Hospital at Westmead and Sydney Children’s Hospital at Randwick have been identified as public hospitals that have used the contaminated equipment.

Contaminated equipment replaced or removed

NSW Health said the contaminated equipment had been replaced or removed from service and new national guidelines for the machines had been issued.

Past patients of the hospitals have been urged to be aware of the symptoms of infection, including persistent fevers, unexplained weight loss and breathlessness.

Dr Sheppeard said patients may present with symptoms up to five years after exposure.

“Early recognition and starting on the right antibiotics seems to have a much better patient outcome,” she said.

“If left for too long then there’s ongoing damage to wherever the infection is and of course if that’s in a heart valve, that’s a very serious matter.”

Patients seeking further information are encouraged to contact the Sydney Children’s Hospital Network or the South Eastern Sydney Local Health District.