Heart valve patients recalled after deaths

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Patients who underwent heart valve operations are being recalled to hospital after three people died from an infection following treatment, an NHS trust said today.

A number of patients who underwent the operation at Nottingham's City Hospital have also suffered from the same infection.

Now Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust said it was issuing a "precautionary" recall of all patients who have received the heart valve treatment at the hospital since January of this year.

A statement issued by the trust said: "We confirm with great regret that three patients have died from this infection.

"As a precaution, the trust has been contacting patients who have had heart valve operations since the beginning of the year.

"The trust considers that these patients are at low risk of having acquired this infection but as a precaution we will be contacting these patients by the end of this week to invite them for tests to check their health and post-operative recovery."

Dr Stephen Fowlie, medical director, will be speaking at the nearby Queen's Medical Centre, which comes under the same NHS trust, at 4pm.

The trust said there were eight confirmed cases of the patients who were suffering from the staphylococcal infection, which is common and found on skin.

Three patients have since died while the other five are in a stable condition but Dr Fowlie said any infection after an operation "can be very serious".

He added: "As a precaution, we have contacted 15 patients who had very similar operations for tests to check their health and post-operative recovery.

"We will have completed checks on 14 of the 15 patients by the end of today.

"Two of these patients are undergoing further tests, the others are well. We are making strenuous efforts to contact the remaining patient.

"A further 79 patients had heart valve operations in our heart centre this year. These operations were not as similar and we consider that these patients are at low risk of having acquired this infection.

"But as a further precaution we are also contacting these patients to invite them for similar tests."

A local rate helpline has been set up via NHS Direct to answer the questions from any other concerned patients. It is 0845 603 0897.

Dr Fowlie added: "No other types of heart operations or other operations have shown any cause for concern.

"Patients can be reassured that those who are at greatest risk of post-operative infection with this bug have already been contacted, and those who need a precautionary review will be contacted by the end of this week.

"There is no reason for any other patients to be concerned - their post-operative recovery and follow-up will not be affected.

"As soon as an unusual pattern of post-operative problems emerged, we commenced a thorough investigation. We have undertaken tests of our theatres.

"We are confident that the theatres are not the cause of the infections. We have not stopped heart valve operations, but we have changed some of our procedures and schedules to ensure patient safety."

The Trent Cardiac Centre performed 284 valve operations in the last calendar year.

The 30 day mortality rate was 3.5 per cent, while the UK average is around 4.5%.