(Story updated at 5:30 p.m. Eastern Time.)
At least 15 people may have been exposed to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease from neurosurgery instruments that had first been used at Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, N.H.
Cape Cod Hospital, a 259-bed hospital in Hyannis, Mass., said that five patients who underwent surgeries in June, July and August may have been exposed to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease because surgeons used instruments that were used on a New Hampshire patient suspected to have died from the rare brain disorder. Two more patients who had surgery at the 160-bed Veterans Affairs hospital in West Haven, Ct., have also been notified.
The hospitals had rented the same surgical instruments from Medtronic, a global medical-device manufacturer based in Minneapolis.
In a statement, a Medtronic spokeswoman said the company had confirmed that the potentially contaminated instruments had been used in seven additional cases.
“Upon notification that our instruments had been used in this case, we followed procedures to quickly track that specific set of instruments and have confirmed they were used in seven additional cases,” the spokeswoman said in an e-mailed statement. “We are assisting the hospitals and the appropriate state health authorities as they manage this situation.”
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health said in a statement
that the risk to the Cape Cod patients “is extremely low” because they had spine surgery rather than brain surgery. “The five patients have been notified and counseled, and there is no risk to hospital staff or members of the public,” officials said.
The announcement came just days after Catholic Medical Center said that eight of its patients were at risk after a patient suspected of having the disease had brain surgery at the 233-bed hospital.
Health officials said the patient is believed to have developed a sporadic version of the disorder, meaning that it was caused by a spontaneous transformation of normal proteins into abnormal prions rather than by infection from another source.
The autopsy report, which is needed to confirm a Creutzfeldt-Jakob diagnosis, is expected to be available in four to six weeks.
There are only four total confirmed cases of patients contracting the disease from surgical instruments, and none occurred in the U.S., health officials have said. The prions resist standard sterilization processes used by hospitals.
It's a common practice for hospitals to participate in loaner instrument programs, based on the volume of procedures, size of the population they serve and the types of specialty surgical services they perform, according to Lisa Waldowski, an infection control specialist for the Joint Commission, which accredits the quality and safety of healthcare providers.
Medtronic also said it had notified the Food and Drug Administration.
Several hospitals reported similar exposures to patients in the early 2000s. Follow Jaimy Lee on Twitter: @MHjlee