Earlier this month, four patients who had breast reconstruction surgery following treatment for breast cancer at a South Carolina hospital and acquired the same type infection filed their South Carolina medical malpractice lawsuits against the hospital, alleging that the hospital knew but failed to disclose to them for months that other patients had also acquired the same infection thereby causing them to undergo months of antibiotic treatments and other breast procedures.
The four South Carolina medical malpractice plaintiffs allege that they are among 27 patients who were infected with nontuberculous mycobacteria following procedures performed at the defendant hospital, most of whom were breast cancer patients.
One of the South Carolina medical malpractice plaintiffs alleges that the CDC determined that she most likely acquired her infection at the defendant hospital but the hospital and its physicians never informed her about the CDC’s finding. The CDC was unable to determine precisely how the woman became infected.
The chief medical officer at the defendant hospital reportedly confirmed that the hospital’s water supply had previously been found to test positive for nontuberculous mycobacteria that has since been resolved, but it was not clear how the women became infected because only sterile water was used during their surgical procedures.
The defendant’s chief medical officer further emphasized that each of the twenty-seven women who acquired nontuberculous mycobacteria were successfully treated with antibiotics, and it has been more than eleven months since a patient who had surgery at the hospital developed a nontuberculous mycobacterium infection.
An article published in the Journal of Thoracic Disease in 2014 stated, “Similar to TB, NTM [nontuberculous mycobacteria] infections can occur throughout the body. However, pulmonary infections, lymphadenitis, and skin and soft tissue infections are the most commonly described attributable human infections … Mycobacteria are aerobic, non-motile organisms … NTM are ubiquitous in the environment with the heaviest concentrations found in soil and water sources … it is not surprising that drinking water, household plumbing, peat rich soils, brackish marshes, and drainage water are reservoirs of NTM. Water systems in hospitals, hemodialysis centers, and dental offices have particularly high rates of mycobacterium colonization … ”
“Currently, there are more than 150 species of Mycobacterium and it is likely that more will be discovered … The mode of transmission to humans has not been defined. … Unlike TB, person-to-person transmission has not been convincingly demonstrated … Although the exact route of NTM infection is not established with certainty, based on NTM environmental distribution, it is very likely that the organism is ingested, inhaled, or implanted … Contamination of hospital water supplies, medical equipment, including bronchoscopes and endoscopes, and contaminated dialysis solutions, has led to both NTM colonization and nosocomial outbreaks of disease … It is hypothesized that regulations to limit hospital water system temperatures to prevent scalding hinder the control of NTM … ”
“Nearly everyone is presumed exposed to NTM, yet most do not develop clinical signs of infection. The factors predisposing to infection are not well understood, but likely are due to an interaction between host defense mechanisms and the load of clinical exposure … NTM may infect surgical wounds post-operatively. The etiology of these infections is unknown, but it is most likely due to direct implantation or contamination of surgical instruments. Both host and organism characteristics are contributory, as these infections occur more commonly in those who are immunosuppressed, and the causative organisms are usually rapidly growing NTM … ”
If you have been injured as a result of medical negligence in a hospital in South Carolina or in another U.S. state, you should promptly consult with a South Carolina medical malpractice attorney, or a medical malpractice attorney in your state, who may investigate your hospital medical malpractice claim for you and represent you in a hospital malpractice case, if appropriate.
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