The Heater Cooler as a Source of Infection from Nontuberculous Mycobacteria

J Extra Corpor Technol. 2016 Jun;48(2):55-9.


Nosocomial infections acquired during the course of cardiac surgery and hospitalization can have devastating patient consequences. The source of these infections is often difficult to determine which complicates eradication efforts. Recently it has become apparent that the heater-cooler devices used in conjunction with cardiopulmonary bypass may become contaminated with bacteria that are normally found in hospital water sources. The culprit organisms are nontuberculous mycobacteria which coat the intrinsic surfaces found within the circuits of the heater-coolers. Aerosolization of the bacteria occurs during normal heater-cooler operation which can disperse the organisms throughout the operating room. The bacteria are slow-growing and may not present for months, or years, following exposure which makes epidemiological determination a challenge. The ensuing report summarizes a recent outbreak in these infections that have been reported both in Europe and the United States, along with efforts to reduce the risk for patient infection.

Keywords: cardiac surgery; cardiopulmonary bypass; heater–cooler device.

MeSH terms

  • Cardiac Surgical Procedures
  • Cross Infection
  • Humans
  • Nontuberculous Mycobacteria*
  • Surgical Wound Infection
  • Thoracic Surgery
  • United States