January 30, 2017 — After hospitals in South Carolina notified 5,000 patients of a risk of infection from heater-cooler machines, lawyers asked federal judges to centralize the litigation.
On January 26, lawyers filed a petition to centralize the lawsuits in a Multi-District Litigation (MDL) in South Carolina.
Ten out of 15 lawsuits involving heater-cooler infections are currently pending in South Carolina. All of the lawsuits accuse LivaNova, a German company that manufactures the Stöckert 3T Heater-Cooler, of selling a defective medical device and failing to warn about infections.
The petition was filed soon after two hospital systems in South Carolina warned patients who were exposed to the bacteria since 2012. No infections were reported, but notices were sent to 3,000 patients at Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) Health, plus another 2,000 patients at Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System.
Infections are caused by the bacteria M. chimaera, which is a type of Non-Tuberculosis Mycobacteria (NTM). It grows slowly, but the risk of death increases the longer it takes to be diagnosed.
The symptoms of an infection may include night sweats, muscle aches, weight-loss, fatigue, or fever. These symptoms may not appear for up to 6 years. Infections can be cured with 1-2 years of antibiotics.
Multiple investigations have traced the bacteria to a common source, with studies suggesting that most 3T Heater-Coolers were contaminated at a manufacturing facility in Germany. Some heater-coolers made by Maquet have also tested positive for NTM bacteria.
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