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Heart Device Causes Severe, Life-Threatening Infections

San Jose Medical Malpractice Attorneys

Heart AttackAdvances in medical technology generally work to improve our quality of life and medical outcomes, rather than inhibiting them. But sometimes, medication is found to have dangerous side effects and medical devices are found to be dangerous to patients. One such device is the heater-cooler, a device used to regulate a patient’s body temperature during surgery. Although these devices are necessary in procedures like heart-valve replacements, heart bypasses, and other operations to the heart and lungs, they can become infected with harmful bacteria and pose an infection risk to patients. Before you undergo heart, lung, or another chest surgery, talk to your doctor about the devices that will be in use during and after the surgery and their risks. As a patient, you have the right to know about all of the potential hazards and side effects of the procedures you receive and the medication you take. This is the basis of informed consent. If you are not thoroughly educated about a medical device or procedure before it is performed or if you suffer from complications related to your doctor’s negligence, you could have grounds for a medical malpractice claim. Even if your doctor did nothing wrong, you may still have grounds for a medical malpractice claim if you suffer health issues as the result of a defective product, you may have grounds for a defective product claim with the product’s manufacturer.

Why are Heater-Coolers Used and How do they Work?

Heater-coolers are used to keep patients appropriately warm or cool during surgery. The device is placed in the patient’s chest cavity. It contains water tanks, one with warm water and the other with cool water. By supplying temperature-controlled water to devices such as an oxygenator, a heater-cooler keeps the patient’s blood circulating and his or her organs at an appropriate temperature. The flow is controlled by fans inside these devices. Each heater-cooler has an exhaust vent.

Complications Related to Heater-Coolers

The problems recorded with heater-coolers stem from the buildup of bacteria around the devices’ exhaust vents. The fan inside a heater-cooler can expel this harmful bacteria out of the patient’s body and throughout the operating room. For most others in the room, this is not a problem. But for the patient, whose immune system is compromised, the bacteria can enter his or her surgical wound and create an infection. This infection can be deadly. The longer a patient is exposed to the heater-cooler, the greater his or her chance of becoming infected.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), at least 15 people have died from infections related to the use of heater-coolers. Hospitals around the nation have made approximately 340 reports about the devices to the FDA, which caused it to release a safety warning about the devices in 2015 and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to release another in 2016.

Despite their dangers, heater-coolers are an important safety device for patients undergoing chest surgery. Every year, more than 250,000 heart bypass surgeries are performed in the United States using these devices.

Filing a Defective Medical Device Claim

If you suffer an infection because of bacteria buildup in your heater-cooler, who is responsible for your damages? The answer is not always simple. Although various heater-cooler models have been found to pose a threat to patients, some responsibility lies with doctors and hospitals who are not adequately prepared to minimize these devices’ risks when using them on patients. More than one party can potentially be at fault for your infection, in which case you may seek compensation for your damages through more than one medical malpractice claim.

Work with an Experienced San Jose Medical Malpractice Attorney

If you have suffered from any of the above complications or lost a loved one to health conditions related to a heater-cooler, you could be entitled to recover compensation for your damages through a medical malpractice or wrongful death claim. To learn more about your rights, your legal options, and your requirements as a claimant, speak with one of the experienced San Jose medical malpractice lawyers at Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, L.L.P. Contact our firm today to set up your initial consultation in our office.

Client Reviews
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My experience with Attorney Brad Corsiglia during my recent medical malpractice case was nothing short of amazing given the very stressful circumstances. I was fortunate to find Brad highly recommended from a mutual contact and from the very beginning of the process, Brad was truly engaged and knowledgeable in understanding my case and providing input on what avenues were available to me. Michelle M.