Each day people throughout the nation experience severe illnesses or injuries that prompt them to seek medical assistance. It’s fair to say that most individuals who reside in St. Louis, Missouri, go to hospitals for this medical attention at hospitals because they assume that they will be well taken care of and will leave in a better condition than when they arrived. While hospitals generally live up to those expectations, there are times when patients are worse-off after such a visit. Eighteen people who live in another state would probably say that they fall into that category.
The former patients all went to the same hospital where they had surgery on their brain. In the course of those neurosurgeries, the individuals may have been exposed to a fatal brain disorder-- Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. The exposure was discovered when another patient exhibited symptoms of the condition. Tests later confirmed the diagnosis of the condition which results in rapidly progressive dementia, in that patient.
The exposure occurred when the same surgical tools that had been used on the infected patient, were then used on the others without having gone through an enhanced sterilization process. Sterilizing these tools in a manner that makes them safe to use on other patients is difficult. While transmission of CJD in this manner is not common, as this case illustrates, they do occur.
Perhaps the most difficult part about the exposure is that it can take some time for the symptoms to appear. In the meantime, the exposed patients have to live with the stress and anxiety of not knowing the truth. Sadly, once those symptoms do occur, the condition progresses rapidly.
In the meantime, it is possible that those who were exposed will decide to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the hospital and individuals involved in the incident.
Source: Modern Healthcare, “18 patients exposed to fatal brain disorder at N.C. hospital,” Sabriya Rice, Feb. 11, 2014