Bair Hugger Warming Blanket Lawsuit
What is a Bair Hugger warming blanket?
The Bair Hugger warming blanket is a well-intended invention. During surgery, the body temperature drops, as a result of anesthesia. When the body temperature drops, both bleeding and recovery time are increased. Knowing this reality of surgery, an anesthesiologist
developed the idea of the Bair Hugger warming blanket back in the 80s. The Bair Hugger is a heater and blower connected by a flexible hose to a disposable blanket. The Bair Hugger keeps the patient warm by blowing hot air on the patient, allowing their body temperature to remain at a constant 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
The device has become extremely popular across the USA, considering that it is used in nearly 90% of all major surgeries. It has also been effective in treating hypothermia and exposure. More than 50,000 Bair Hugger units are currently in use across the country.
What makes the Bair Hugger warming blanket potentially dangerous?
Operating rooms use Laminar Air Flow Systems to circulate filtered air throughout the operating facility. The idea behind the airflow systems is to prevent airborne contaminants from causing an infection.
The air exhaust from the Bair Hugger blanket is warmer than the operating room temperature, causing a strong natural convection fluid flow current. Warmer air moves upwards past and perhaps through the operating field. This disrupts the flow protection. The Bair Hugger system has the potential to disrupt air systems by allowing some of the warm air emitted from the machine to cycle below the operating table. Once there, it can collect bacteria and carry it to the operating table. Bacteria can enter incisions, which leads to infection. Joint replacement surgeries involving the Bair Hugger seem to produce the biggest risk of infection given how difficult deep joint infections are to treat.
Did the manufacturer of the Bair Hugger warming blanket know about this problem?
In short, yes. After selling his share in the company, the doctor that invented this device figured it out and wrote to his former company and warned them about the dangers of the Bair Hugger. He insisted that a mandatory recall was imminent. His old company insisted that he was merely trying to disparage his old company in the name of promoting his new surgical warming product, the HotDog®.
Complications continued to be reported from patients who received infections after undergoing surgery, involving the Bair Hugger. The defects in the Bair Hugger forced-air warming system relating to bacterial contamination during surgery have long been recognized. 3M addresses the issue in its literature but did not modify the design of Bair Hugger to fix the airflow pattern in the surgical field that can cause bacterial contamination.
At last count, there are approximately 6,000 federal lawsuits filed alleging that 3M knew that the design increased the risk of joint infections yet failed to redesign the product and, more importantly, failed to warn doctors and patients about the risks so they could make an informed call on whether to use a Bair Hugger.
Why is the focus of Bair Hugger warming blanket lawsuit claims on hip and knee replacements?
If you received a knee or hip implant, a Bair Hugger was likely used during your surgery. The device is used in approximately 80% of all implant procedures. Because patients undergoing hip and knee joint replacement procedures are especially at risk for infection because the procedure is long and invasive.