Confusion over Duke Fluid?
(08/22/05 -- DURHAM) -- Eyewitness News has learned that there may be some confusion over the fluid to which thousands fo Duke patients may have been exposed during surgeries last year.
Duke told patients their surgical instruments were washed accidentally in a used Exxon hydraulic fluid. Duke told the N.C. Department of Labor that it was a Pennzoil product. The Pennzoil product could cause gastrointestinal problems, which is one of the problems patients say they have been experiencing.
Debra Holloman had ear surgery at Duke Health Raleigh Hospital last year. She learned that instruments used in her operation were washed in the hydraulic fluid. She recently developed a rash on her stomach.
"It started out as a raised bumpy area with blisters," Holloman said. "Each time it cycles, its spreads."
She also complained of digestive problems since the operation. Holloman is not alone. Patient Shelley Bassett was treated for bowel obstruction following breast surgery. Patient Bennie Holland says he temporarily lost bowel function after back surgery.
The patients are wondering if their problems are related to exposure to hydraulic fluid.
"My surgeon could not answer that question, and I don't think I could answer it, either," Holloman said. "No one has given me an answer."
Safety sheets for Pennzoil hydraulic fluid could hold some answers. It states that prolonged or repeated skin contact could lead to reddening of the skin with possible secondary infection, and ingestion may result in abdominal cramps, diarrhea, gastrointestinal discomfort or vomiting.
Duke says when the N.C. Department of Labor asked for the information in January, a previous maintenance company indicated that the fluid at a previous time may have been a Pennzoil product. Duke learned that the fluid currently in use was an Exxon product.
Duke says no one can know with absolute certainty about all of the oils used in a hydraulic elevator system over decades. Administrators say all of the results done on instruments and the fluid have been shared with patients and the public.
But it's not enough for patient Debra Holloman.
"It boggles my mind," she said. "Duke is a world-renowned medical facility. I think that I expect a little bit more from them. I truly do."
Exxon has not confirmed that its product was involved in the accidental washing. The Labor Department says there is supposed to be an oil usage log kept with elevator maintenance companies, so it should be clear what has been used in any elevator.
Duke maintains the instruments were sterilized before surgery.
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