Carolinas HealthCare System

What you need to know

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have recently issued updated advisories regarding heater-cooler machines used in open-chest surgery. The machines used to heat and cool the blood during surgery have been linked to a rare bacterial infection caused by Mycobacterium chimaera, a slow-growing species of nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM).

For patients who have had open-chest surgeries, the chances of getting this infection are very low. The CDC estimates the risk to be less than 1 percent. This type of infection is very slow growing and it cannot spread from person to person. It is possible to develop symptoms years after surgery, so it is important to know the symptoms.


Symptoms of an NTM infection can include (but not limited to):

  • Unexplained fever
  • Night sweats
  • Muscle aches
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Redness or drainage from the surgical site

At Carolinas HealthCare System

At Carolinas HealthCare System, we have not had any open-chest surgery patients diagnosed with this type of infection. We have thoroughly addressed these heater-cooler machines to reduce the risk to patients requiring lifesaving surgeries such as cardiac bypass, heart valve replacements and liver transplants.

To continue to ensure the safety of our patients, the hospital has notified open-chest surgery patients of possible exposure to this bacteria during open-chest surgery procedures that have been or will be performed at Carolinas HealthCare System since January 1, 2012. If you are a recipient of one of these letters or are planning to undergo an open-chest surgery, we encourage you to discuss this issue with your surgeon, cardiologist or primary care provider.

For more information:

The following information is available for those who want to learn more about NTM:

Frequently Asked Questions (PDF)

State and Federal Resources: