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Heart surgeries cancelled and patients warned of fatal infection risk due to deaths at Edinburgh hospital

NHS Lothian has written to nearly 200 patients who have undergone heart surgery in the last six months warning them of a potentially fatal infection risk.

The decision was taken by an Incident Management Team after it found that six patients who underwent cardiothoracic surgery over an 18-month period were affected by unusual infections.

The Scottish trust has written to 186 patients who underwent the surgery at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh to advise them of the possible infection risk, and four operations have been cancelled this week to allow for intensive cleaning of the operating theatres.

The Incident Management Team was convened after an unusual case of heart valve infection. The team then conducted an extensive review of the infection records of thousands of patients who received surgery since 2015.

The team found that six patients who had the surgery between March 2017 and November 2018 were affected by unusual infections caused by microorganisms.

NHS Lothian said: “It is thought these may have been acquired during surgery. Of the small number of patients affected, sadly some later died.”

No cases were found prior to March 2017 or since November 2018, but as a precaution four surgeries this week have been cancelled and enhanced infection control measures have also been put in place.

NHS Lothian’s executive lead for infection control, Alex McMahon, said: “We extend our sincere apologies and deepest condolences to the families of the patients who died, all of whom were informed at the time of their treatment that they had an unusual and difficult to treat infection.

"We know this will be a worrying time for those who have received letters but we have contacted patients purely as a precaution.

“The risk is very low and we do not anticipate any more cases, however we know that it can take up to six months for these infections to materialise.  We want to make sure those patients know what symptoms to be aware of and to contact NHS Inform if they have any concerns.

“Many patients receiving this type of surgery are already very ill and vulnerable to infection so we place the highest importance on a stringent infection prevention and control regime.”


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