Colorado health officials are warning that numerous patients treated at a Denver hospital may have been exposed to HIV and hepatitis, due to a sterilization breach.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) issued a warning on April 4, indicating that the agency is working with Porter Adventist Hospital to notify patients that they were potentially exposed to infectious materials if they had orthopedic or spine surgery there between July 21, 2016 and February 20, 2018. However, neither the hospital nor health officials have yet received any reports of patients actually being infected.
According to the warning from Dr. Larry Wolk, executive director and chief medical officer of the CDPHE, Porter Hospital’s process for cleaning surgical instruments following orthopedic and spine surgeries was found to be inadequate, “which may have compromised the sterilization of the instruments.”
The warning indicates that patients treated during the time period may have been exposed to HIV, hepatitis B or hepatitis C. However, the CDPHE also notes that the risk of one of these infections is very low. The risk that the sterilization breach may have caused other surgical site infections is unknown.
The state’s health department is currently conducting a disease control investigation. It was first notified of the breach on February 21 and conducted an on-site survey of the hospital’s infection control practices the following day.
The advisory notes that the practices at the hospital currently meet infection control standards. The last inspection to confirm those practices was March 28.
“Porter Adventist Hospital stopped using and reprocessing all surgical equipment in question Feb. 20,” the CDPHE statement indicates. “While there is always a risk of infection during surgery, it appears there is no increased risk to current patients having surgery at Porter Adventist Hospital because of the infection control breach.”
The hospital began mailing letters to patients who may have been at increased risk of infection on April 4. The hospital has not said how many patients have been mailed the notification letters.
Porter Adventist Hospital noted that it paused all surgeries again on Thursday as a precaution, after noticing a potential change in its water quality, relative to its surgical equipment, according to a statement by the hospital on April 5. The hospital has published a list of Frequently Asked Questions related to the sterilization breach and its latest pause in surgical procedures.