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Paynesville Press - November 28, 2001

Orthopedic surgery ban lifted by health department

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) lifted its one-week ban on elective orthopedic procedures, starting on Monday, Nov. 26.

The ban had been put in place because of three deaths in central Minnesota following knee surgeries: two at the St. Cloud Hospital and one at the Douglas County Hospital.

"Because these cases all involved knee surgery, because the pattern of illness was similar, and because they all occurred at roughly the same time and place, we felt it was prudent to recommend the moratorium," said Dr. Harry Hull, Minnesota State Epidemiologist. "However, a clear link has yet to be established between these three deaths. We recommended a moratorium primarily as a precautionary measure, so we would have time to investigate."

The bacterium Clostridium sordellii was found in one case but no infectious agent has been identified in the other two cases. This was one reason the moratorium was lifted, according to Hull. An intensive investigation - with great cooperation from the two hospitals, Hull noted - failed to find a possible common source of infection nor any additional cases that fit this pattern, despite receiving hundreds of reports from around the country.

Hull praised hospitals for their cooperation with the voluntary ban.

The Paynesville Area Health Care System does orthopedic procedures only on Thursdays and was not affected by last week's ban due to Thanksgiving. PAHCS has one procedure scheduled this week, and will be keeping a close eye on the on-going investigation, said Bev Mueller, patient care administrator.

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