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Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease Informational Release

PITTSBURGH, June 12, 2002 — In the interest of public disclosure, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center is releasing the following information about a former surgical patient who, upon autopsy, was determined to have Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease (CJD).

In April 2001 a patient had surgery at UPMC Presbyterian to treat a condition of the nervous system. The surgical instruments were sterilized with standard procedures following the surgery. In the first quarter of 2002, the patient died from progression of a neurological disorder.

Following the patient's death it was determined upon autopsy, for the first time, that the patient had Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease (CJD). This disease is believed to be transmitted by an infectious protein, or prion. Prions may not be eliminated by standard instrument sterilization processes.

The instruments used in the patient's surgery presented an extremely low risk of transmitting CJD to patients who had neurosurgery with these instruments during the period from April 17, 2001 to April 6, 2002. There are only a very small number of reported cases of CJD developing after exposure of a patient to instruments used in a prior surgery on an individual with CJD, the most recent being in Europe in 1976. No such cases have been reported in the United States since the adoption of the standard sterilization techniques which were in use at the time of the patient's operation in April of 2001.

Since the patient's CJD was diagnosed at autopsy, all surgical instruments at UPMC Presbyterian have been subjected to additional sterilization processes to further reduce the risk of prion transmission. Additional sterilization is now used on instruments in all surgical cases. Other appropriate changes in process and procedure have been adopted to diminish any risk of exposure from and to future surgical patients.

The Pennsylvania and Allegheny County Health Departments have been closely involved in the review of and actions taken with regard to this matter since it was identified. UPMC Presbyterian, in consultation with the referenced regulatory bodies, will pursue such additional steps as are determined to be appropriate.

Individual notification is being provided to those patients who are potentially subject to the minimal risk of exposure. If you have questions regarding this matter, contact 412-647-UPMC or the Allegheny County Department of Health at 412-687-2243.

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