By Gregg Aamot
Associated Press Writer
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - State health officials are investigating the sudden deaths of three men after elective knee surgery and have asked all hospitals and surgery centers to suspend such operations for one week.
Brian Lykins, 23, and Wayne Hulterstrum, 78, died Nov. 11 after having surgery at St. Cloud Hospital, local officials said. A man in his mid-60s died on Friday at Douglas County Hospital, three days after surgery. The identity of the third man was not immediately known.
Preliminary tests show that the bacteria clostridium may have been identified in the blood of one of the men, state epidemiologist Harry Hull said on Sunday. A small amount of the rare bacteria can cause major illness. Final test results would not be available until later this week, he said.
Drugs used in treating the two patients at St. Cloud Hospital also were being tested by the Health Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Hull said.
"We are doing a very intensive investigation and working with the CDC to find out the source of these deaths," Hull said.
Hull said health officials did not suspect foul play, adding: "We have no reason to believe this is bioterrorism."
He said the request Sunday for the surgery halt was "a precaution" and that public health officials in bordering states had been advised.
Health officials limited their request to elective knee surgeries since that is the only common link in the deaths, Hull said.
All three men were in good physical health before their surgeries and became ill one to four days after going home. Their conditions rapidly deteriorated and included a sudden drop in blood pressure, health officials said.
Blood samples were taken from two of the bodies, but the body of one of the men was embalmed before it could be tested, complicating the investigation, Hull said.
"If we do not find additional cases we just may run into a dead end. But we would rather run into a dead end than have additional patients," he said.
Two of the men had knee-replacement surgery; the other had what Hull called a cartilage graft.