- More than 1,000 former patients of a major Melbourne
hospital have been contacted amid concerns they may have contracted a rare
brain disease via surgical instruments.
- The Royal Melbourne Hospital couriered letters to 1,056
brain or spinal patients after confirmation of the rare Creutzfeldt-Jakob
disease (CJD) at the hospital, although doctors say the risks of transmission
are extremely small.
- Concerns arose after a middle-aged Victorian man died
of the disease earlier this year.
- The man underwent surgery at the hospital twice in 2003,
but was diagnosed with the disease only last week.
- The hospital has withdrawn its stock of 15,000 neurosurgical
instruments pending their replacement and has begun sterilising its entire
stock of 300,000 surgical instruments on the advice of the National CJD
- Director of Neurosurgery Professor Andrew Kaye said patients
who had undergone brain or spinal surgery during the past 18 months were
being contacted as a precaution.
- "There has not been a proven case of transmission
of CJD between patients via surgical instruments in the past 30 years,"
- "Expert advice is that there is only an extremely
remote risk of transmission in this case."
- The last known case of probable transmission of the disease
through neurosurgical instruments in Australia was during the 1970s.
- There have been five reported cases worldwide of CJD
being transmitted via contaminated neurosurgical equipment.
- Professor Kaye said CJD is one of the few diseases which
"can withstand normal sterilisation processes".
- He said if a patient is known to have or has symptoms
of CJD then disposable surgical instruments are used.
- The man who died of the disease was originally admitted
to the hospital for treatment for malignant brain tumours, a condition
not associated with CJD.
- The last operation performed on the man at the hospital
was six months before the symptoms of the disease became apparent.
- "This has not arisen because of any breach of protocol
or guidelines," Professor Kaye said.
- There are about 20 cases of CJD reported within Australia
- This type of CJD, known as Sporadic CJD, is not communicable
and occurs randomly.
- It is a fatal disease with the average survival rate
of four months after symptoms appear.
- It is related to Variant CJD, or Mad Cow disease, but
has very different characteristics.
- There has never been a diagnosed case of Mad Cow disease
- Professor Kaye said diagnosis of CJD was only possible
when the brain is examined under a microscope.
- There are no screening tests for healthy people to determine
whether they have the risk of carrying the disease.