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Seattle Children’s shuts down some ORs after finding low levels of mold

(KIRO 7, file photo)

More operating rooms at Seattle Children’s Hospital have been shut down due to aspergillus mold. The hospital says the mold found this month is a different strain than the previous type found at Children’s, which is suspected of infecting patients during surgery and contributing to some deaths.

Parents of infant say she became infected with mold at Children’s Hospital

Seattle Children’s installed a new air filter and re-opened its surgery suites earlier this year. Since then, a spokesperson told KIRO Radio no sign of that mold has been found.

She says the type of aspergillus found earlier this month is not known to infect patients during surgery.

“In 2019, we temporarily closed 10 ORs in order to install a new rooftop air handling unit, as well as in-room HEPA filtration systems in those ORs,” the hospital’s spokesperson wrote in an email KIRO Radio. “HEPA is an extremely effective filtration system that removes more than 99.97% of particles from the air passing through the filter. Since re-opening our ORs in February 2020, we have conducted continuous air pressure monitoring and daily air testing, and validated that the new air handling unit and HEPA filtration systems are functioning as expected.”

Since 2001, 14 patients at Children’s have had aspergillus infections, and seven have died.

Seattle Children’s details mold outbreaks dating back to 2001

“Providing safe, quality care is our top priority at Seattle Children’s. As we stated before reopening our ORs, we are committed to taking swift and necessary action – including closing ORs – in the event of unexpected test results,” she added.

Routine air tests in May detected low levels of fungal spores in several operating rooms and a storage room. Daily testing has not found Aspergillus fumigatus spores, which is the species previously associated with the 14 surgical site infections.

“Air testing did detect very low levels of Aspergillus versicolor spores, which is generally not associated with causing surgical site infections. Nevertheless, the air test results prompted us to evaluate the environment and OR air pressures, which revealed unexpected air pressure findings.”

Based on the results, the spokesperson said there will be an expansive evaluation of the spaces in collaboration with external engineers. Seattle Children’s expects several ORs to be closed in the coming weeks while the evaluation takes place.

Seattle Children’s shared this information with the Washington State Department of Health on May 12.

The Seattle Children’s spokesperson said surgeries are still being performed at the hospital’s main campus and at its Bellevue Clinic and Surgery Center.

The KIRO Radio Newsdesk contributed to this report.

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