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A Louisiana woman, individually and on behalf of her minor daughter, recently filed a new 3T heater-cooler infection lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. She claims that after her daughter underwent heart surgery in which the 3T heater-cooler system was used, she developed a dangerous and life-threatening infection. She seeks compensatory damages in excess of $75,000.

Heater-Cooler Device Used in Patient’s Heart Surgery

According to the complaint, on June 27, 2017, the plaintiff’s daughter had a bilateral branch pulmonary arterioplasty procedure. This procedure is meant to treat a narrowing in the pulmonary artery—the artery that sends oxygen-poor blood to the lungs to be enriched with oxygen. This narrowing makes it hard for blood to reach the lungs for oxygen, and can result in oxygen deprivation throughout the body. The heart also works harder trying to push the blood through, increasing blood pressure and potentially causing damage to the heart muscle.

Pulmonary artery stenosis is a birth defect that can cause symptoms like shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, heavy breathing, and swelling in the feet, face, and abdomen. Though mild cases may not require treatment, more severe cases are often treated with a procedure that helps to open the artery. Surgeons will often place a stent in the artery to hold it open.

The goal in the plaintiff’s daughter’s treatment was to repair this malformed artery. During the procedure, surgeons used a 3T heater-cooler device to assist in maintaining the patient’s proper body temperature. The surgery seemed to go well, and the patient was discharged from the hospital on July 2, 2017.

Infection Leads to Extensive Treatment and Potential Long-term Side Effects

After the patient went home, she developed pain, swelling, and tenderness at the incision site. On August 10, 2017, she told her pediatric cardiologist about these symptoms. The patient was re-admitted to the hospital on August 11, 2017, and diagnosed with a wound infection.

The doctors treated the infection and tested cultures taken from the wound. The patient was prescribed a rigorous course of antibiotics, received a wound vac at the infection site, and given a catheter for long-term IV access. She continued to receive treatment until her discharge on October 10, 2017. The child continued receiving antibiotics until March 2018.

The child’s mother alleges that as a result of the infection, her daughter was forced to undergo numerous additional surgeries and an extensive course of antibiotic therapy that caused numerous side effects, including the possibility of future hearing loss.

Letter Reveals that Heater-Cooler Units Caused Infections

The plaintiff blames the 3T heater-cooler for her daughter’s infection, noting that she received a letter from the Children’s Hospital in New Orleans, Louisiana on August 30, 2017, informing her that several patients who underwent cardiac surgery at the hospital between June and July 2017 had developed a “rare surgical site infection caused by Mycobacterium abscessus….”

The letter also stated that the cause of the infections was believed to be a “piece of equipment used to regulate the temperature of patients while on bypass.” The hospital indicated that they had removed and replaced all of these heater-coolers.

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