The Bair Hugger is a single use blanket manufactured by 3M designed to keep patients warm during surgery. It forces warm air through tubing into a blanket that covers the patient before surgery to promote healing and lower rates of infection. It has been used in more than 200 million surgeries since 1987, and is used in four out of five U.S. hospitals. While there is not yet a definitive link, some studies show the use of Bair Huggers during surgical procedures may have an increased infection risk over other warming methods.
Some patients who developed infections after surgery have filed suit against 3M alleging a causal connection between the use of the Bair Hugger device and the surgical infections they later developed. Attorneys representing those patients say the research shows that the device can spread airborne contaminants while warming the surgical patients, thus causing these specific infections. The inventor of the device, Dr. Scott Augustine, has testified that use of the Bair Hugger device creates a risk of infection, especially in orthopedic patients.
The Bair Hugger works by pumping warm air through a hose into rows of inflatable tubes that in turn warm the patient, which 3M alleges prevents heat loss from the body’s core and reduces the risk of hypothermia from anesthesia. Dr. Augustine counters that the warming unit can disrupt the carefully designed flow of sterile air in an operating room and create convection currents that stir up contaminants on the floor and embed them on the surface of knee or hip implants. This, according to Dr. Augustine, causes deep joint infections.
The lawsuits claim that 3M knew about the risks for infection and failed to warn doctors and hospitals of those risks. They also claim that 3M tried to conceal and discredit the scientific data regarding the risks of infection. The lawsuits seek damages for medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages and punitive damages (seeking to punish 3M for its wrongdoing). No case involving the Bair Hugger device has gone to trial yet.
There are specific facts which must be proven in order to recover, and strict time limits apply. If you have sustained an infection after a surgery where a Bair Hugger device was used, call MacCloskey Kesler & Associates at 815-965-2000 and we can help you get involved in the law suits that are progressing now against 3M.