Sunday, October 03, 2004

The Gift that Keeps on Giving...
From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Emory methods questioned
Emory University Hospital has not adopted the most rigorous type of sterilization of surgical instruments after learning Sept. 15 that a brain surgery patient may have spread a fatal ailment that resembles mad cow disease to more than 500 patients, a federal health official said Friday.
The best medical sterilization measures call for a chemical Emory is not using, plus more intense heat, said Dr. Ermias Belay, an epidemiologist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Belay helped write the sterilization guidelines.
Emory also waited two weeks after the initial patient's probable diagnosis of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease before informing other patients they may have been exposed, subjecting dozens of people to brain or spine surgery without their knowledge of the risk.

"I think we had every right to be informed," said Susan Nabulsi of Conyers, whose husband, Mike Nabulsi, had neck surgery Monday, long after Emory knew of the concern. "We were not given an informed choice."

In all, 516 patients are facing an uncertain future, knowing that years from now they could develop a fatal disease for which there is no treatment, even though the risk is small.
The ideal sterilization protocol would involve sodium hydroxide as well as increased heat. Emory objects to the use of NaOH due to its' corrosive nature and has concerns about the durability of disposable instruments. This is going to be a tough spot for Emory to overcome, as every time these patients have a dizzy spell or memory loss they will be struck with the frightening possibility that they could be manifesting CJD.
Cross-posted at Galen's Log
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