CONCORD - State health officials have confirmed that a man who died in August after brain surgery at Catholic Medical Center in May was at the time already infected with Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, a fatal condition that causes rapid deterioration of the brain.
The sterile neurosurgical instruments used during his surgery were tainted through contact with the patient's diseased brain and that is how eight other patients at CMC may have been exposed.
Officials from the state Department of Health and Human Services suspected that the man also likely contracted the disease through neurosurgical equipment because the prion that causes sporadic CJD is not eradicated by the standard sterilization process mandated at hospitals.
In addition to eight patients at CMC, five other patients in Massachusetts and Connecticut were potentially exposed to the tainted surgical equipment, DHHS said.
"Though we are not surprised by the test results, we are saddened by the toll this disease takes on families and our sympathies go out to all those affected," state Public Health Director Dr. José Montero said in a statement.
"Our focus and concern continues to be with the patients who may have been exposed to CJD," Dr. Joseph Pepe, president and CEO of Catholic Medical Center, said in a statement.
Pepe said the hospital has notified its eight patients of the results and offered the hospital's assistance to monitor their health, "even though the risk is extremely low that any of these patients was infected."