At least 15 people may have been exposed to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease from neurosurgery instruments used on a patient suspected to have died from the rare brain disorder at Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, N.H. Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis, Mass., said that five patients who underwent surgeries in June, July and August may have been exposed. Catholic Medical Center notified eight patients who could be at risk, and two patients who had surgery at the Veterans Affairs hospital in West Haven, Conn., received similar notices. All of the hospitals rented the same surgical instruments from Medtronic, a medical-device manufacturer based in Minneapolis. “Upon notification that our instruments had been used in this case, we followed procedures to quickly track that specific set of instruments,” a Medtronic spokeswoman said in an e-mailed statement. 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, said Lisa Waldowski, an infection-control specialist for the Joint Commission. The patient who was the source of the potential exposure 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. The autopsy report, which is needed to confirm a Creutzfeldt-Jakob diagnosis, is expected to be available in four to six weeks. The prions resist standard sterilization processes used by hospitals. Massachusetts health officials said the risk to the Cape Cod patients “is extremely low” because they had spine surgery rather than brain surgery.
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