Potentially lethal infections linked to heater-cooler units used during open chest surgery
• This infection linked to heater-cooler systems is a nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) called Mycobacterium chimaera (or M. chimaera). M. chimaera is commonly found in water and soil but rarely causes infections in people. When infections do occur, it most often happens in people more susceptible to infection due to health conditions or a weakened immune system. It is believed that the M. chimaera grows in the water tank that cools the heater cooler system and travels by air into the open chest cavities of patients undergoing surgery.
M. chimaera grows very slowly and patients may not show symptoms for several months to a year or more. Fever is the most common side effect along with shortness of breath. Other side effects include:,?p>
Pus around a surgical incision
Cough with blood
Loss of energy
M. chimaera infections are usually treated with antibiotics, sometimes requiring treatment lasting months to years. Patients who develop M. chimaera infections after open chest surgery may eventually need additional surgery. In the most severe cases, a M. chimaera infection can be fatal.