Today, officials at Forsyth Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC, admitted that improper medical instrument sterilization exposed 18 neurosurgery patients to the deadly Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD). CJD is caused by infectious agents called “prions,” which are extremely difficult to kill.
On January 18, 2014, a patient suspected of having CJD had surgery. Instead of throwing away the surgical instruments used (as recommended by major health organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), or performing enhanced sterilization, Forsyth Medical Center went through standard sterilization—a process that does not eradicate prions. Then, 18 patients had surgery using the same medical instruments.
While hospital administrators say that the risk of CJD transmission is low, they also acknowledge that any risk for disease transmission is unacceptable. According to WXII 12 News, administrators say that now, following the possible exposure, the hospital “will sterilize surgical instruments at a higher temperature for a longer time during CJD surgeries.”
The patients exposed to CJD will have to live not knowing if they are infected until symptoms arise, such as failing memory, lack of coordination, weakness of arms and legs, and involuntary movements. The disease is 100% fatal, with most patients dying within a year of diagnosis.
This situation is a nightmare for the exposed patients and their families. We understand how devastating news like this can be. Just a few years ago, HensonFuerst represented dozens of Duke University Medical Center patients exposed to medical instruments that had not been properly sterilized. We saw first-hand the fear, anger, and helplessness associated with these kinds of situations. Our hearts and prayers go out to those affected by this latest instrument sterilization problem.