Information About Aspergillus in Main Operating Rooms

We are very sorry for the impact the air quality issues and closure of our operating rooms has had on our patients and families. Providing safe, quality care is our most important responsibility at Seattle Children’s and we are all committed to doing what is right to keep our patients safe. We would like to share with you some of the work we have done to address this issue.

Background Information

We closed our operating rooms in late May when we determined that deficiencies in our air handler were likely contributing to the air quality issues. Closing the operating rooms allowed us to physically access the air handling system in order to thoroughly investigate the cause and implement several improvements and corrective actions.

We self-reported our air quality issues to the Department of Health on May 20.

In July, to validate that our operating rooms are safe for patient care, we invited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Washington Department of Health and Public Health – Seattle & King County to tour our facilities, assess our safety protocols and share in our learnings. They confirmed we have taken appropriate actions to reduce the risk of future Aspergillus infections.

Since we identified the air quality issue, many teams from across our organization have been working diligently to implement mitigation efforts. These efforts include investigating air systems, enlisting external experts and overseeing various aspects of the mitigation plan.

Here is what we have done so far:

  • We hired outside experts to review our efforts and advise our team.
  • We removed our previous air handler and installed a newer air handler and purification system that has been thoroughly cleaned and upgraded.
  • We upgraded and replaced our air filters.
  • We increased our air testing and deep cleaning standards and protocol.
  • We changed our operating room cleaning protocol and installed a device that emits ultraviolet light to disinfect surfaces.
  • We have sealed potential sources of air leaks in all of the operating rooms.
  • We have implemented a system to monitor for Aspergillus in an effort to maintain a safe environment for our patients.

We contacted approximately 3,000 patients and families who had surgery at the main hospital in the four months prior to the detection of Aspergillus. We informed them of the issue and advised them on how to watch for possible signs of infection. This is an ongoing situation and we continue to closely monitor patients who have been impacted. 

Looking Ahead to the Future

We are committed to testing and improving our systems so we can continue to provide safe, quality care to our patients. We will continue to collaborate with federal, state and local regulatory organizations and outside experts to validate our efforts and strengthen our safety protocols. In the coming months, we will make additional improvements to our air filtration system and install a new air handler. We have learned a great deal throughout this experience and will share our learnings with other hospitals and regulatory organizations. 

As we continue to implement additional, long-term and enhanced maintenance to our air handling and purification system, we expect intermittent, planned closures of our operating rooms. We will take great care to support patients and families during these maintenance activities.

Our mission to bring hope, care and cure to every child who needs it drives everything we do.  Our patients and their families depend on our expert, compassionate care. We continue to take a thoughtful and systematic approach to continuing our operations. Our surgery coordinators are contacting families to help them reschedule their procedures.

Patients and families who have questions or concerns not related to scheduling may call our Patient and Family Relations Department at 206-987-2550. If you need an interpreter, please call 866-583-1527 and ask to be connected to this number: 7-2550.  

Updated August 1, 2019