Surgical patients potentially exposed to fatal disease

When you go in for surgery in Philadelphia, you likely have many concerns including the risks associated with the procedure and the recovery time. You probably wouldn’t even think about the possibility of the surgical instruments being contaminated.

Yet this is precisely what happened for a handful of people who had spinal cord surgery performed in Cape Cod, Massachusetts this summer. The surgeries were performed with the same surgical instruments that were initially used during a procedure on a patient who is suspected of having a variant of mad cow disease known as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. This disease causes brain injuries that can lead to rapid cognitive problems and memory loss. It contains prions, something that cannot be killed with regular sterilization techniques. Instead, it is recommended that instruments that have been used on patients with this fatal disease be disinfected with a caustic chemical such as sodium hydroxide.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health reported that those patients who were involved in surgeries where the contaminated instruments were used likely have a very low risk of contracting the disease. This is because the surgeries were performed on patients’ spinal cords, not their brains. The department also said that hospital staff were not exposed to the disease.

Although the risk of contracting the disease may be low, it may be in the best interest of the patients who were potentially exposed to the disease to contact a lawyer. An attorney can go over their case, and work to ensure that they are properly compensated for any damages brought on by this mistake.

Source: CNN, “Fatal brain disease potentially affects five people in Massachusetts,” Julia Lull, Sep. 6, 2013

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