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Paynesville Press - December 12, 2001

No links found in knee surgery deaths

Officials at the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) say they haven't found anything that would connect the mid-November deaths of three west central Minnesota men who had recently undergone elective knee surgery.

Health officials say it's now unlikely that they will be able to find an explanation for two of the three deaths, and they are no longer actively investigating the possibility of a connection.

One patient tested positive for Clostridium sordelli, a type of bacteria that is rare in humans but is known to produce a potent toxin, providing a possible explanation for his death. However, no disease-causing agents were identified in laboratory specimens for the other two patients.

The patient who tested positive for Clostridium sordelli had received a cartilage graft, using tissue from a donor. An investigation is underway to determine what role the donated cartilage might have played in his infection. The U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) is taking the lead in this investigation.

The health department conducted an intensive investigation of the three cases, looking for any links between the cases and at the surgical instruments, supplies, antiseptics, and drugs. MDH officials emphasize that their investigation revealed no problems at either the St. Cloud Hospital or the Douglas County Hospital in Alexandria, where the three patients had their surgery.

"We took a very close look at these two facilities in the course of our investigation. They cooperated fully with the investigation, and we found nothing to suggest any problem from their end," said Dr. Harry Hull, Minnesota State Epidemiologist.

"There is absolutely no reason why patients who receive care or have surgery in these hospitals should have any special concerns," he added. "Nor is there any reason to believe that people face any special risks simply because they live in that part of the state."

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