Infection after Hip or Knee Surgery Linked to Warming Device

Illustration of stick figure patient lying in hospital bed while air contaminated with green bacteria blows under blanket

A device used to keep patients warm during hip or knee replacement surgery has been linked to serious post-surgical infections that sometimes require second surgeries and, in one case, amputation. The device, known as the Bair HuggerTM and manufactured by 3MTM, is the subject of a number of lawsuits claiming 3M was aware of Bair Hugger risks but failed to warn hospitals, physicians or patients.

How Bair Hugger May Cause Infections

The Bair Hugger uses what’s called forced air technology (FAW). It’s essentially a heater that forces warm air through a hose and into a special blanket draped over the patient during surgery to help regulate body temperature and prevent hyperthermia. According to 3M, more than 80 percent of all U.S. hospitals use the Bair Hugger in millions of hip and knee replacement surgeries.

But, according to both the device’s inventor and several recent studies, unless the Bair Hugger is positioned perfectly, it can alter the air flow in the operating room and actually draw bacteria from the floor to the surgical site. And, unless it is rigorously maintained, it can grow bacteria which can then contaminate the patient. Dr. Scott Augustine, who invented the Bair Hugger, began advocating in 2010 that hospitals stop using it specifically because of its potential to spread bacteria associated with hospital-acquired infections.

Meanwhile, research studies looking at infection rates are divided. A 2014 report in The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery notes that while some studies have concluded the Bair Hugger increases the risk of infection, others have reported the opposite. But all the studies note more investigation is required. I would add that hospitals need to double-down on their training, use and maintenance of these devices, given how often they are used.

Lawsuit Claims Infection Led to Amputation

Lawsuits have been filed against 3M claiming the company was aware that use of the Bair Hugger carried an unacceptably high risk of infection, but kept that information a secret. Plaintiffs in the suits allege that after joint replacement surgery, they developed serious infections that led to re-admission, a second surgery, and in one case, an amputation.

Bottom line, if you or a family member had knee or hip replacement surgery and later developed a serious infection that resulted in permanent disability, amputation, or death, contact our reputable personal injury lawyers. We are experts in lawsuits targeting dangerous medical devices. Our Bair Hugger medical device attorneys will review your case and tell you about your legal options and potential to receive compensation for your losses.

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