Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas confirmed that a fourth patient died from rabies after receiving a transplant from an infected donor.
While the first three victims received organs from an Arkansas man who had rabies, the fourth victim received one of the man's arteries, hospital officials said. All four victims died within the same time frame in June.
The investigation of the deaths by the hospital and the Centers for Disease Control traced the first three victims through organ donation records, but the fourth death was not confirmed as rabies-related until 3:30 a.m. Thursday because the hospital had no tracking system for tracing the artery.
"There's no master file or database that that information would subsequently be entered into," said Baylor transplant surgeon Henry Randall, M.D.
The iliac artery is usually harvested and transplanted with the liver, replacing the recipient's damaged artery. When recipients do not require reconstruction of their own arteries, the harvested vessels are labeled and deposited in a hospital bank, Randall said.
There is no record, however, of who receives those banked arteries.