The Finnell Firm

Those who have been through, or have had loved ones go through, open-heart surgery are well aware of the stress it involves. The list of potential risks is long and frightening, and serious consequences can result, even if nothing goes particularly wrong. When there is some device or product used in the operation that does not work correctly for some reason, the results can be devastating. It is important for those who may need such surgery to know from where such risks may emerge, and how their rights might be protected.

When thinking about defective heart-related products, most Georgia residents likely envision faulty or leaky heart valve replacements, or bad pacemakers that don't give the correct amount of stimulation, or stimulate out of rhythm. Perhaps they might think of heart medication that was adulterated or that is given without adequate warnings regarding side effects. While all these are dangers, there is one many people might not think about: heater-coolers.

Heater-coolers are used to keep blood at the right temperature during surgery when the patient is being subjected to extra-corporeal circulation. That is, when his or her blood is being through the circulatory system from a source outside the body, such as when the heart is being worked on. Last year, a certain number of these machines were found to have been contaminated with rare bacteria that were passed on to the patients through their blood.

While these particular machines were the subject of a Center for Disease Control Health Alert, and were taken out of circulation, incidents like this show that the risk of infection from a defective or contaminated heater-cooler is one that any heart surgery patient should be aware of. When Georgia patients end up sicker coming out of a hospital than when they went in, it is fair to consider whether a medical product liability or malpractice lawsuit is in order to protect the legal rights of the patient.

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