Tag Archives: hepatitis C

At Least 31 Patients Contracted Hepatitis C

by Kim Smiley

Testing is still ongoing, but at least 31 people have contracted hepatitis C from contaminated syringes at a New Hampshire cardiac catheterization lab.  A previous blog discussed the outbreak when it was initially announced that four patients who had used the same cardiac catheterization lab had tested positive for the same strain of hepatitis C, but more information has been released and the Cause Map should be updated to incorporate all the relevant details.  One of the strengths of a Cause Map, a visual root cause analysis, is that it can be updated relatively quickly to document important information as it becomes available.  In this example, investigators are continuing to work to understand the issues involved, but two new significant pieces of information should be added to the Cause Map.

The source of the hepatitis C has been determined by investigators.  Investigators found that a medical technician with hepatitis C contaminated syringes that were then used on patients.  The medical technician is a drug addict who used the syringes because they were filled with Fentanyl, an anesthetic far more powerful than morphine.  Hepatitis C is spread through blood to blood contact so syringes contained with hepatitis C are a major health hazard that are capable of spreading the disease. The syringes were not secured so he was able to attain them.  He then used them, refilled them with saline or another liquid and replaced them without any other member of the staff noticing.

Investigators have also learned that the medical technician responsible for the contamination has worked in 18 hospitals in seven other states during the last 10 years.  It’s not known when the medical technician contracted hepatitis C, but investigators believe he had a positive test for hepatitis C in June 2010.  This means that the investigation needs to be expanded and that many more people may need to be tested.

This article contains information about what facilities the medical technician worked at and the timeline for his employment.  To view an updated high level “Cause Map”, click here.

Four Patients Contracted Hepatitis C

By Kim Smiley

A cardiac catheterization lab was temporarily shutdown after four patients tested positive for hepatitis C.  All four patients have the same strain of hepatitis C which means they contracted the virus from the same source.  The investigation into this incident is ongoing, but no other connection other than the cardiac lab has been found between the four patients.

This issue can be analyzed by building a Cause Map, an intuitive root cause analysis that visually lays out the cause-and-effect relationships between the factors that contribute to an incident. The first step in building a Cause Map is to determine the impact to the overall organizational goals.  The basic information about an incident and the impacts to the goals are documented in an Outline.  In this example, the safety goal was impacted because four patients contracted hepatitis C and there is potential that more people were also infected.  The customer service goal is also impacted because hundreds of people need to be tested to ensure that they are not also infected.  Once the impact to the goals are determined, “why” questions are asked to find the causes that belong on the Cause Map.

Testing is necessarily because hepatitis C is often asymptomatic for many years so many infected individuals will not know unless they are tested.  Hepatitis C can be treated with medication and cured in 50–80% of cases, but there cases that cause severe liver issues. Hepatitis C is the leading cause of liver transplants.

651 patients had used the cardiac catheterization lab since August 2011 and all are being tested along with 30 staff members.  Test results take up to 10 days to process so the final results on how many people were infected aren’t available yet.

New Hampshire Division of Public Health and hospital officials are still investigating to determine the source of the hepatitis C.  It was likely medical equipment of some type since hepatitis C is spread through blood to blood contact.  Once the investigation is complete, any additional information can be easily added to the Cause Map so that it documents all relevant information for the issue.

Once the investigation is completed, the lab will be able to make whatever changes are necessary to ensure that all equipment is properly sterilized and this type of event doesn’t occur again.

The Causes and Effects of Hepatitis B & C

By ThinkReliability Staff

As well as medical errors and industrial accidents, the Cause Mapping method of root cause analysis can be used to research the causes and solutions to disease epidemics.  Take the case of hepatitis B and C.  A report recently released by the Insitute of Medicine states that the infection rates of chronic hepatitis B and C viruses (HBV and HCV) is 3-5 times that of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus).  The report also outlines some of the problem associated with lowering the infection rates of hepatitis B and C.

Using the information presented in this report, it’s possible to make a Cause Map outlining the causes of hepatitis B and C infections.  First we begin with the impact to the goals.  First, the report estimates that there are approximately 15,000 deaths per year associated with chronic HBV and HCV.  Additionally, 3-5 million people are estimated to be living with chronic HBV and HCV.  These are both impacts to the patient safety goal.  In many cases, these infections are not treated.  This is an impact to the patient services goal.

Once we’ve defined the incident in respect to the goals, we can begin our Cause Map.  We begin with an impact to the goals and ask “why” questions until all the causes are on the Cause Map.  In this case, the deaths are caused by chronic HBV and HCV, which are caused when a person is infected and not treated.  Infections can result from being born to an infected mother, infected blood transfusions (before blood was tested for HCV), sexual contact with an infected partner, sharing needles with an infected person, or needlesticks with an infected needle.

Most typically, people who are infected with HBV or HCV do not seek treatment because they are unaware they are infected due to the asymptomatic nature of hepatitis.  Persons may not be screened even in high risk situations because either they or their healthcare providers do not realize the risk, or they do not have adequate access to healthcare.

The infection rate of HBV is decreasing thanks to a vaccine for hepatitis B.  However, a vaccine is not yet available for hepatitis C. This is certainly a priority in the national fight against hepatitis infections, as well as increased education and awareness programs.

This thorough root cause analysis built as a Cause Map can capture all of the causes in a simple, intuitive format   that fits on one page.  To view the one-page downloadable PDF, please click on “Download PDF” above.