Officials at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center say a heart surgeon unwittingly infected five patients during valve replacement surgeries earlier this year.
The Los Angeles Times reports the infections occurred after tiny tears in the surgeon's latex surgical gloves allowed bacteria from a skin inflammation on his hand to pass into the patients' hearts. Four of the patients needed a second operation and are still recovering.
The newspaper says the outbreak in June led to investigations by the hospital and both the LA County and state departments of public health. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was also consulted.
Hospital officials tell the Times the infections were caused by an unusual confluence of events: the nature of the surgery, the microscopic rips in the gloves and the surgeon's skin condition.
The Times writes:
"The infections raise questions about what health conditions should prevent a surgeon from operating and how to get the best protection from surgical gloves. Surgeons with open sores or known infections aren't supposed to operate, but there is no national standard on what to do if they have skin inflammation, said Rekha Murthy, medical director of the hospital's epidemiology department. She added that there were also no national standards on types of gloves used, whether to wear double gloves or how many times surgeons should change those gloves during a procedure."
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