Plastic Hospital Tubing May Affect Heart Function, Taste

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Heart Function

Researchers have discovered a possible cause for memory and taste loss among patients who undergo procedures such as heart bypass and dialysis - it may be the plastic tubing used to deliver intravenous fluids, also shown to affect heart function in lab studies using rats.

The researchers say their study may have implications for the manufacture of medical plastics. It seems that plastic tubing used to circulate fluids outside the body may cause lingering problems for patients.

The study results appear online in the American Journal of Physiology. Lead author Artin Shoukas, Ph.D., professor of biomedical engineering, physiology and anesthesiology and critical care medicine at Johns Hopkins had coronary bypass surgery, noting the after effects on his own taste buds.

"I'm a chocoholic, and after my bypass surgery everything tasted awful, and chocolate tasted like charcoal for months." He suspected the effects might be due to some sort of chemical compound, leading to the findings that plastic hospital tubing may be releasing chemicals that have a lingering effect on patients after surgery and responsible for taste loss, swelling and memory loss.

The researchers took samples of liquid from plastic IV bags and bypass tubing before being used on patients. They discovered the presence of cyclohexanone when the fluid was analyzed using another machine that can analyze unknown chemicals.


They noted that the amount of cyclohexanone present varied greatly, but all of the liquid samples had some level of cyclohexanone present. The scientists suspected that the chemical in plastic hospital tubing might be the cause of patient problems such as taste loss, memory loss, swelling and fatigue.

They also found that rats injected with the solution containing cyclohexanone , the chemical produced weaker heart contractions. The research team discovered that the rats heart function decreased by fifty percent from cyclohexanone in plastic hospital tubing. The chemical from the plastic hospital tubing also caused fluid retention and less sensitive blood pressure control in the rats.

The researchers hope to find a way to reduce the lingering effects of the chemical that may cause taste and memory loss, and decreased heart function in patients when cyclohexanone leeches from plastic hospital tubing. “

We would never recommend that patients decline this type of treatment if they need it," says Shoukas. "On the contrary, such technologies are life-saving medical advances, and their benefits still far outweigh the risks of the associated side effects. As scientists, we are simply trying to understand how the side effects are triggered and what the best method will be to mitigate, and ultimately remedy, these morbidities."

No one has been able to understand why memory loss and loss of taste occur after bypass surgery. The scientists may have discovered the source of lingering problems such as loss of taste and memory that occur among patients after major heart surgery, from cyclohexanone, found in plastic hospital tubing.



Thank you so much for your article on heart surgery and loss of taste. My husband is also a chocoholic, having undergone open heart surgery one week ago. He says any form of food tastes like 'ground up aspirin.' I'm glad to hear this won't last forever....... but three months is a long time to not enjoy chocolate!
My mother had open heart surgery in Jan. also and has the same problem with loss of taste. She says things taste like cardboard. Drs. keep saying it will come back, but still nothing. She has lost alot of weight because she 's just not eatting like she should. Has your husband have any taste return yet?
It has been 3 years now since my mothers surgery AND loss of taste! Is there anything doctors can do for her? Local drs. Just srug their shoulders when we ask. Any advice is appreciated.
I could be wrong, but I don't think anyone knows the answer. I'm sorry that has happened to your husband. I think it would be great to see if you can talk with other people who might have experienced this - maybe an internet forum or a local support group for heart patients would help. Best to you.
I just published a book, "The Heart Logs: An Engineer's Trip Through the medical System." It's a memoir covering a 6 month period of my life during 2011 when, among other things, I lost my sense of taste after heart valve replacement. The book is a technical take on what I observed while in hospital and during recovery. My circumstances were quite unique in that I was exposed to very large amounts of plastic medical tubing because I was on dialysis and receiving IV antibiotics prior to going onto the heart-lung machine during surgery. The theory I raise in the book is that the chemical leaching out of all that tubing, in conjunction with my reduced kidney function not removing it quickly enough led to the taste loss. After I got off dialysis and IV treatment, about 6 weeks after my heart surgery, my taste started to come back. In the space of about 2-3 weeks I went from not being able to taste pure salt to having full taste again.
Thank you John for sharing that. It will help others. I'm glad you recovered!
I had bypass surgery nine months ago and after went to rehab. Did not eat the food there because it had no taste but found out when I got home that I was the one who couldn't taste anything at home and it was me not the rehabs. After nine months I still cannot taste anything and doctors also shrug their shoulders and can't give me an answer to this problem. I am very unhappy and wish I could find someone who knew the answer. I was fine until the surgery. Someone please help me on this
Rhoda, this does happen to a lot of people. Until your taste for food comes back, the best thing people tell me they do is just eat for nutrition and wait for this to end. Try a favorite food with a wonderful smell (like chicken soup, for example), or something else that you have always enjoyed smelling while cooking. That may help. This really should subside over time. I'm sorry you are going through this. I wrote this article a while ago, because I've seen it so much as a nurse. No one knows why it happens and I know there is not any discussion or help available.
I last commented here on Jan. 2013. My mothers taste has NEVER came back! I'm glad that most people do have it come back, but it's a very serious problem for others. Drs. Don't seem to care.
I have been eating finally with the realization that my taste buds will never come back. This is so difficult when you cook and can't flavor your creation by taste. There is no enjoyment in eating at all. It has been nine months since the bypass surgery. But I am gratefull to be alive. So something's you just have to live with. Thank you for responding to my comments
The worst part of the bypass is the loss of taste following surgery. it's been 3 weeks and it feels like an eternity. Nothing tastes the same, even water. I'm eating just to nourish the body and not lose too much weight but not enjoying anything I'm eating. Noone, including my surgeon, knows why surgery affected my taste buds. Speculation runs from tubing down my throat, to antibiotics, to meds etc. etc. but no one seems to know for sure why this happens. And there doesn't seem to be a cure. In the hospital they tried a couple of mouth washes but that didn't help. My doctor told me to get some priobiotic pills which I did and I'm taking one a day but that isn't really helping so far either. I survived the surgery although it was a terribly invasive ordeal. The stay at the hospital was a nightmare. But this loss of taste is terribly annoying. Let's hope it's temporary. I guess you don't really appreciate something until you lose it
Thank you for your comment Robert. It is terrible because now is a time you need to heal and eat well. At this point, if there is anything that would work - sometimes home made chicken soup helped my patients, which I mentioned previously. They reported that tasted better than anything! Hoping this passes for you. Do take care.
My husband had aorta valve replacement, going on 8 weeks. Doesn't want to eat, said nothing tastes good. I've tried his favorite meals, nothing. This man had an appetite that was extremely good. He now presently hates to eat. He was non systematic before the surgery and they insisted he needed this done before he had an actual heart attack. I feel so bad, he has lost 20 lbs. and is so week. Been giving him supplements, vitamins, and CQ10, to keep him a little more nourished. I pray this leaves soon. I hope the taste buds heal. His age is late 70's..............Sadie