A hepatitis B-infected doctor unknowingly passed the disease along to at least two of his patients during joint replacement surgery, according to a new report by researchers at the University of Virginia Health System.
They report that the surgeon first became aware of the fact that he had hepatitis B after sticking himself with a needle and undergoing routine blood-borne disease testing. He had emigrated from a country with a high frequency of the disease, and he likely had the disease for a while without severe symptoms such as fever and nausea.
Once the hospital became aware of this incidence, they worked with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to determine who else contracted the disease. They tested all of the surgeon’s patients dating back nine months prior to the incident, which is also the time period the surgeon had worked at the hospital. Most of this surgeon’s patients were treated for hip or knee replacement surgery.
Hepatitis B is contracted via bodily fluids, even though the surgeon claims that he always wears two pairs of gloves when performing surgery. Researchers are baffled, but they believe that tiny tears in the gloves during surgery allowed the virus to be contracted, but even if that were the case, the surgeon would have had to have a cut someone on his hand.
As previously stated, two patients of the 232 that were tested came back with positive test results for hepatitis B, and the virus was genetically identical to the virus contracted by the surgeon, which means that he most likely gave them the virus.
The two patients took drugs to treat the virus, and another six patients had had hepatitis B in the past. However, since they did not have the virus in their blood at the time of the testing, the researchers could not tell if the surgeon had given them the disease. It is also possible that these patients could have contracted the virus from the surgeon, and cleared it from their bodies before they were tested, as they did not have any known risk factors for developing hepatitis B.
This is troubling, and scary news. We look to doctors and surgeons to be treated, operated on, and cured. The fact that a doctor could have unknowingly contracted a virus, let alone passing it to the very patients he operates on, is a concern that needs to be addressed.
Since 1994, there have only been two other reports of hepatitis B transmission from doctor to patient while in surgery, but that number is too high! Surgeons should be required to be tested for all blood-borne diseases before operating on patients.
What do you think about this story? Will you be more inclined to ask your doctor if he has been tested for such diseases next time you have an operation scheduled?
For more information, contact a Gacovino Lake attorney at 1-800-246-HURT (4878).