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Swansea Hospital contact 150 over Hepatitis B fears after patient death

More than a hundred patients of a Swansea hospital have been told they have been put at risk of contracting Hepatitis B following the death of a patient who was found to have newly contracted the disease after surgery this year.

Abertawe Bro Morgannwg health board have contacted 150 patients who had cardiothoracic surgery at Morriston Hospital.

The health board say there is a low risk that patients who underwent surgery between 11 March and 17 April this year may have contracted the disease.

Non-urgent cardiac surgery has been temporarily suspended at the hospital and blood screening is being offered to patients who may have been put at risk of contracting the disease.

Hepatitis B is a viral infection spread through blood and other bodily fluids. It can cause an acute infection which clears up within a few months; however 30% of people have no symptoms at all, and most adults make a full recovery.

In rare cases, it can lead to serious liver damage and death. However, treatments are available for Hepatitis B.

In a statement this morning the health board said they were “alerted to the problem when a patient who received treatment at the unit during this time, and was discharged as planned after making a good recovery, was later newly diagnosed with an acute Hepatitis B infection. The patient has sadly since died.”

An investigation by the health board and Public Health Wales had ruled out transmission from staff and family members.

The statement added: “It is therefore likely that the virus had been indirectly transmitted from another patient at the cardiothoracic unit, who was known to be Hepatitis B positive.”

Abertawe Bro Morgannwg say that initial investigation have not identified the cause of the infection and further investigations are ongoing.

A spokesperson for the board added:

“It is extremely rare for blood borne viruses like Hepatitis B to be passed between patients because of the robust precautions and procedures that are in place. There have been no similar incidents reported at the cardiothoracic unit in the past.

“ABM has now undertaken a number of actions as part of the investigation and to ensure everything possible is done to stop a similar incident happening in future:

  • We have screened staff for Hepatitis B and ruled this out as a source of transmission.
  • We have also screened blood products and ruled them out.
  • We have redecorated and deep cleaned both cardiac theatres, and deep cleaned Cardiac ITU and HDU.
  • We have reinforced infection control systems within theatres.
  • We will be using more single-use surgical instruments.
  • We are reinforcing staff training.
  • We have ordered additional Transoesophageal Echocardiography (TOE) probes and specialist cleaning equipment to supplement the existing cleaning methods used on this equipment. (TOE probes are ultrasound magic eye equipment which is inserted into the throat and gullet to take ultrasound pictures of the heart.)

“The first four actions have been completed, and the others are underway.

“As a precaution, while we await delivery of the additional TOE probes and cleaning equipment, we have temporarily suspended non-urgent cardiac surgery.”

Only patients who were cardiothoracic patients at Morriston Hospital during this time period are being contacted. Patients who have not received a letter do not need a blood test.

An external review into procedures at the hospital will be launched.

In March this year Public Health Wales confirmed that letters had been sent to those at risk after it became apparent that a patient who underwent surgery in a hospital in the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg Health Board area in 2007 was at high risk of the disease.

Health officials said that all surgical instruments used on the patient were removed from use when the patient’s history became known, and all patients operated on with the same instruments in the interim have now been informed.

Health officials did not name the hospital involved to protect the identity of the high-risk patient.


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