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Medtronic Neurosurgery Instruments Used in Procedures That Exposed Patients to Rare Disease

Sep 9, 2013

Medical device maker Medtronic Inc. says its surgical instruments were used in several procedures that may have caused more than a dozen New Englanders to develop a rare infection similar to Mad Cow disease.

Reuters reported this week that at least 13 patients spread across New Hampshire and Massachusetts had been exposed to the protein that causes the life-threatening Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, or CJD. The disease mobilized from one person to the next through the use of infected surgical equipment manufactured by Medtronic.

A Medtronic spokesperson told Reuters that a person in another, unnamed state likely also was diagnosed with CJD after undergoing a neurosurgery procedure. The instruments used in those surgeries likely became infected with the protein that causes CJD. Medtronic said that the instruments were originally used in one New Hampshire procedure and then again in five surgeries in Massachusetts.

Reuters explains that CJD is difficult to diagnose and can only be done so in an autopsy. The infected instruments were first used in a patient who had an undiagnosed case of CJD. Although the instruments were allegedly sterilized prior to the subsequent surgeries, there is no way to completely eradicate the protein that causes CJD.

The Massachusetts Dept. of Public Health announced this week that the risk of its five patients developing CJD was “extremely low” because the infected instruments were used in a spinal, not brain, surgery.

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