Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease

Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease: Surgical Equipment the Likely Cause

Most of the time, when you go to the hospital for surgery, you expect to come out in better physical shape than when you went in. In those cases when coming out in better shape isn’t apparent, you at least expect to know all of the risks of the surgery going in.

But New Hampshire public health officials are on alert right now, after a patient died in August of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, an extremely rare degenerative brain disease, which they believe he contracted through surgical equipment used during brain surgery he had back in May. What’s worse, officials suggest there’s a chance that as many as 13 other patients around the country were exposed to the illness as well.

The hospital, Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, has begun to notify eight of its potentially exposed patients, and hospitals in several other states are working to do the same. The reason for this is based on the fact that some of the surgical equipment used in the patient’s surgery had been rented and was used elsewhere after it had been used in Manchester. According to records, as many as five additional patients may have been exposed in several unspecified states.

While Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is incredibly rare, when symptoms do occur it progresses relatively quickly and is always fatal, usually within a few months. Symptoms don’t always show up right away; in fact, sometimes they can years to show up at all. The symptoms can include changes in behavior, loss of memory, poor coordination and a number of similar neurological problems. The only way to verify the disease is via a brain biopsy or autopsy. Health officials in New Hampshire are still awaiting the results for patients there.

Less than one percent of cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease are contracted through exposure to brain or nervous system tissue, and another 10-15 percent of cases involve a family based genetic mutation. According to the National Institutes of Health, in the United States there are about 200 cases recorded annually.

While statistics show that very few cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease are caused by surgical instruments, the disease is strong enough to resist sterilization methods, and the prospect apparently has some hospitals worried. Last year, after a patient was diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jakob, Greenville Hospital System in South Carolina, increased the temperature used to sterilize their surgical instruments, and eleven of their patients were notified that they might have been exposed.

If you or someone you know has contracted or been exposed to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, and you believe that a hospital or surgery may have been responsible, please contact Hill Law Firm to help you.

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