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Chemical found in medical devices impairs heart function

May 5, 2009
Art Shoukas

A BME researcher’s personal experience after cardiac surgery motivated a search for the cause of some common side effects of heart surgery. Artin Shoukas, Ph.D., professor of biomedical engineering, physiology and anesthesiology and critical care medicine, found that after his coronary bypass operation, his sense of taste was negatively altered. Loss of taste and and short-term memory loss, as well as swelling and fatigue are common complaints of coronary bypass patients. Shoukas and his colleague Caitlin Thompson-Torgerson, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in anesthesiology and critical care medicine, suspected the trigger for these side effects might be a chemical compound of some kind. They found that a compound called cyclohexanone commonly used in the production of such medical plastic devices as intravenous (IV) bags and catheters can impair heart function in rats.

Rats given a solution containing cyclohexanone had weaker, slower heart contractions. Also, the reflex that helps control and maintain blood pressure is much less sensitive after cyclohexanone exposure. Finally, the team observed increased fluid retention and swelling in the rats after cyclohexanone injections. The next step is figuring out how these side effects–decreased heart function and swelling–occur, and to what degree cyclohexanone is involved.

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Category: Research

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