Patients Alerted of Rare Brain Disease Risk

Patients Alerted of Rare Brain Disease Risk

Six patients who underwent neurosurgery at a suburban Denver hospital were alerted to the potential risk for contracting classic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a rare but deadly brain ailment.

Officials at Littleton Adventist Hospital discovered that the patients had their surgeries after an operation on a patient confirmed to have Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. The surgical instruments used on the infected patient potentially could have transmitted the disease to the others even though the instruments had been sterilized.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the last cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease transmitted through surgical instruments occurred in the 1970s when sterilization guidelines were not as stringent.

Classic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease appears in approximately one in 1 million people in the United States annually. Dr. Lawrence Wood, the hospital’s chief medical officer, said that the disease might not manifest itself for years. The only way to test for Creutzfeldt-Jakob is to perform a brain biopsy.

The disease is always fatal. Hospital officials stress that the possibility of surgical transmission of the disease is remote. 

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