Rented Medtronic Surgical Kit Linked to Brain Infection Risk in NH, Mass.

State health officials indicate that patients at two different hospitals may have been exposed to a risk of a serious brain infection after coming in contact with potentially contaminated Medtronic neurosurgery tools that were rented and used by both facilities.

Last week, it was reported that eight patients treated at Catholic Medical Center in New Hampshire were warned about potential exposure after at least one patient died from Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease (CJD), which is similar to “mad cow” disease.

On September 5, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health issued a press release warning that at least five other patients treated at Cape Cod Hospital may have also been exposed to a risk of the brain disease, after it was disclosed that the same Medtronic surgical tools were rented by that hospital.

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The surgical kit may have become contaminated after it was used on a patient who later died of CJD, which is only 100% detectable after the patient dies. The prions that cause CJD infections cannot, with certainty, be cleaned off of surgical tools via standard hospital sterilization practices. However, officials say there is very little risk of hospital acquired infection because the surgery was conducted on the infected patient’s spine, not his brain.

According to Medtronic, seven of the patients who received warnings were treated with the tools, but officials say six more may also be in danger, even though they may not have come in direct contact with the tools.

CJD is a rare disease that attacks the nervous system and deteriorates the brain. About one million people each year are affected worldwide, including about 200 annually in the United States. It is always fatal.

In a study published last October in Archives of Neurology, researchers found that less than one-in-five patients suffering from CJD were correctly diagnosed.

Early symptoms can include cognitive problems and rapidly failing memory that progress much faster than Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Symptoms can also include personality changes, anxiety, depression, lack of coordination and visual problems. In later stages, patients may suffer mental deterioration, involuntary movement, blindness, weakness of extremities, and coma. No treatment or cure has yet been developed.


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