Fifteen people in three states have been warned by hospital officials that they may have been exposed to a rare but deadly brain disease after undergoing surgery with contaminated surgical equipment.
The concern stems from a now-deceased patient who had brain surgery at Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, N.H. in May. He is suspected to have had Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, CJD, a rapidly degenerating and incurable neurological disorder similar to mad cow disease. A true diagnosis cannot be made without an autopsy; Results are expected in a few weeks.
The patient was treated using a guided imaging navigational system made by Medtronic Inc., and surgical tools that work with the machine including a metal reference frame and base. The device and tools were later used on other patients at Catholic Medical Center as well as medical facilities in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Hospitals routinely share expensive equipment for specialized procedures.
The concern arose after the suspected CJD diagnosis, because standard hospital sterilization techniques cannot eradicate the type of protein, called a prion, that causes CJD.
The risk of infection for the 15 exposed patients is low. It can also take years and even decades for the symptoms to appear. Symptoms generally begin with rapidly progressing dementia leading to memory loss, personality change and hallucinations. Patients also report anxiety, depression, paranoia and other psychosis. Physical problems include impaired speech, jerky movements, seizures and coma. Death can come in a matter of weeks or months. In some cases symptoms can last year. There is no treatment or cure for CJD.
Source: NBC News