Hospital to 18 Patients: You May Have Been Exposed to Incurable Disease

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(Courtesy: CNN)

(CNN) — Doctors and hospital officials from Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, are notifying 18 neurosurgery patients that they might have been exposed to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a serious and incurable neurological disorder.

“Today we are reaching out to 18 neurosurgery patients who were exposed to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease over the last three weeks at Forsyth Medical Center,” said Jeff Lindsay, president of the center, according to CNN affiliate WGHP.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, CJD affects about one person in every one million people per year worldwide.

The hospital confirmed that on January 18, an operation was performed on a patient with CJD symptoms who later tested positive for the illness.

Even though the surgical instruments were sterilized by standard hospital procedures, they should have gone through enhanced sterilization procedures used when there are confirmed or suspected cases of CJD.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the World Health Organization, recommends that surgical equipment used on CJD patients be destroyed or decontaminated through an intense disinfecting process.

Although CJD can be transferred through surgical equipment, hospital officials say the likelihood of these patients contracting the disease is very low.

The CDC corroborates that assessment.

It says that no cases of the disease have been linked to the use of contaminated medical equipment since 1976.

But Lindsay made no excuses.

“On behalf of the entire team at Novant Health, I apologize to the patients and their families, for having caused this anxiety.”

In September, 13 patients received similar warnings from two hospitals in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, when a patient who had undergone neurosurgery was later suspected to have CJD.

The hospitals shared the specialized surgical equipment that was used to operate on the patient and continued to use it until the suspicion of exposure to the disease surfaced.


  • jpreyno (@jpreyno)

    One policy a prominent medical center had was that for all “non tumor” brain biopsies, the surgical equipment was held separately until results of CJD testing came back. Once it came back as negative, the instruments could be reintroduced for operations. If the CJD test was positive the instruments were discarded.

  • pondering...

    “an operation was performed on a patient with CJD symptoms who later tested positive for the illness.”

    So instead of erring on the side of “they have it” after seeing the symptoms, they decided to NOT take the preventive measures?

    Wonder what a lawsuit pays for negligent death.

  • Cheryl A. Woodson

    My father passed away September 25, 2013 from CJD, we were told this was a sporatic disease that it can not be CAUGHT!!! So now I read this.. somebody better give me some answers!!!

  • Laurie Heckman

    My mother passed away from this disease. They told us they could burn the instruments until they were charcoal and the prions (organisms that cause that disease) would still be on there. They actually threw away the instruments used on my mother. The center for CJD research is at University Hospitals in Cleveland. Dr. Gambetti is in charge. We had her body sent there and they removed her brain to study it. We did not want an embalmer to catch this CJD as it could be infective so we had her cremated. We did not want another family to go through what we did. After the brain autopsy was done, we found out that her CJD was hereditary. Most likely not contagious but they really don’t know a lot about it yet. They say that 1 in one million people get it, but the symptoms mimic Alzheimer’s so a lot of people with CJD get diagnosed with Azheimer’s. Alzheimers lasts for years. CJD kills within 6 months of symptoms showing up.

    It was the most horrible thing ever as I was home with my mother after having had surgery. They first thought she was having a nervous breakdown. She ended up being the first patient at the Cleveland Clinic diagnosed with this. The CJD foundation is in Akron, Ohio if you need more information or just to talk to someone.

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