In Brief

Dirty Surgical Instruments Tied to Hundreds of Infections at Colorado Hospital, Lawsuit Alleges

Surgical tools
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Dozens of people are suing a hospital in Colorado, alleging that improper cleaning and sterilization of surgical instruments at the facility led to hundreds of infections, according to news reports.

The lawsuit was filed this week by 67 patients who underwent surgery at Porter Adventist Hospital in Denver between 2015 and 2018, according to The Denver Post. The patients allegedly developed serious infections at the surgical site or in the bloodstream — hepatitis B, meningitis, and urinary tract, E. coli and staph infections — following their surgeries, the Post reported. One patient died after developing sepsis and pneumonia following surgery for a fractured femur, the lawsuit says.

In 2018, Porter Adventist Hospital acknowledged that problems with its sterilization procedures for surgical instruments may have put some patients at risk for contracting infections, including HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C, although the risk was said to be "very low."

An investigation by state officials also identified 76 instances in which contaminated surgical instruments were brought into operating rooms, including tools tainted with "blood, chunks of bone, cement, hair and even a dead insect," the Post reported.

The lawsuit also alleges that the sterilization problems weren't limited to instruments used for orthopedic and spine surgeries, as the hospital had previously stated. For example, one of the plaintiffs developed an infection after a mastectomy and another after an eye procedure.

In a statement, Joel Malecka, a spokesperson for Porter Adventist Hospital, said, "We acknowledge the concern of these patients and are aware of existing lawsuits," according to U.S. News & World Report. Malecka added that hospital officials have provided reports to the state showing that the facility continues to meet guidelines for sterilization procedures. "We will be addressing this matter through the legal process which is underway," Malecka said.

Originally published on Live Science.

Rachael Rettner

Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.