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The Bair Hugger Lawsuit: Determining the Cause of Your Deep Joint Infection


Hospitals around the world commonly use forced air surgical warming blankets during procedures to help maintain and regulate a patient’s body temperature while they are under anesthesia. These types of products, such as the Bair Hugger warming blanket made by 3M, are designed to reduce bleeding, shorten recovery time, and provide other beneficial outcomes for patients. However, many patients have experienced complications stemming from infections acquired during surgery, which has led to the Bair Hugger lawsuit. If you have experienced any complications after surgery with one of these warming blankets, contact a defective medical products attorney to protect your legal rights.

Bair Hugger surgical warming blanket

The Bair Hugger Surgical Warming Blanket

A warming blanket used during surgery works by pushing warm air through a flexible hose underneath a blanket that is placed over the patient. The use of one of these devices is typically employed in conjunction with intravenous fluid warming systems to stabilize a patient’s body temperature. When used appropriately, the Bair Hugger device can provide several benefits to patients. However, because of the nature of a forced heating system, the air that is recirculated can allow for germs and bacteria to infect the surgical site.

The Bair Hugger Lawsuit

Many patients have developed infections following orthopedic surgery, commonly involving knee or hip implants. These types of deep joint infections can be difficult to treat, and often involve a combination of additional surgical procedures and prolonged antibiotic therapies. In extreme cases, joint fusion or removal, amputation, or two-stage revision surgery may be required.

The Bair Hugger lawsuit alleges that 3M knew about the increased risk of joint infections associated with the use of their product, but failed to properly warn both healthcare providers and potential patients.

The Bair Hugger lawsuit alleges that 3M knew about the increased risk of joint infections associated with the use of their product, but failed to properly warn both healthcare providers and potential patients. 3M also failed to redesign the device to make it safer, even after the inventor of the Bair Hugger spoke out against his own product and urged the company to recall the devices because of their inherent danger. The lawsuit even alleges that the manufacturers attempted to conceal or discredit scientific evidence that indicated an increased risk of infection in patients who had used the machines.

Had the manufacturer properly warned both patients and healthcare providers of the inherent dangers of the Bair Hugger products, many involved would have elected not to expose themselves to the increased risk of complications following their procedure.

Who May be Affected?

This lawsuit may affect orthopedic surgery patients who developed an infection following their procedure from 2007-2015. Most commonly, patients who had a Bair Hugger warming blanket used as part of their hip or knee implant surgery and have developed a deep joint infection. Because implants are made from plastic and metal, bacteria that forms around the device can make the infection resistant to our bodies’ natural immune response. Additionally, a protective shield is often formed around the implant by the bacteria, causing antibiotic treatment and other non-invasive therapies to be ineffective. Many patients have required an additional surgery to treat the infection that developed following their primary procedure.

If you have been injured by a defective medical device, Speak with an Attorney

There are several adverse health conditions that may put a patient at a higher risk for developing deep joint infections following their hip or knee replacement surgery, including:

  • Immune disorders (HIV, lymphoma, leukemia)
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Peripheral vascular diseases
  • Obesity
  • Patients undergoing chemotherapy or other immunosuppressive treatments

Risks and Complications Associated with the Bair Hugger Device

The most common complication associated with the Bair Hugger warming blanket after orthopedic surgery is the development of a deep joint infection on the knee or hip implant. Symptoms of a deep joint infection may include:

  • Fever
  • Chill
  • Night sweats
  • Fatigue
  • Swelling near the implant site
  • Pain centered around the implant site
  • Stiffness near the implant site
  • Wound drainage at the incision site

A deep joint infection occurs when bacteria is allowed to build up and proliferate without being fought off by the body’s natural immune response. With the Bair Hugger lawsuit, patients are commonly infected by Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) following their orthopedic implant surgery.

MRSA

The most common MRSA infections occur in patients who have been in hospitals, and is known as healthcare-associated MRSA (HA-MRSA). There are many different types of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. Most types of staph are generally harmless or only cause minor skin irritation. However, MRSA can be especially problematic for patients because it is resistant to antibiotic therapies. This has occurred because of years of largely unnecessary overprescribing of antibiotics to treat viral infections that do not respond to this type of medication. This practice has given rise to drug-resistant bacteria because even when prescribed appropriately, the antibiotics do not completely destroy every germ that is targeted. When bacteria cells survive one antibiotic treatment, they develop defense mechanisms that are passed on.

Sepsis

When infection is allowed to proliferate without treatment, sepsis can occur. The immune system releases chemicals into the bloodstream to fight off the infection, and sepsis occurs when these chemicals trigger inflammatory responses throughout the body. This can cause a number of changes in the body, eventually leading to failure of multiple organ systems. If sepsis progresses to septic shock, blood pressure drops dramatically, which can even result in death.

Recalls

As of the publication of this article, there have not been any recalls initiated for the Bair Hugger warming blanket as related to infections sustained during orthopedic surgery. However, it is important to note that the investigation into the claims alleged in the Bair Hugger lawsuit are still in their earliest stages. These types of cases typically require several years and plenty of legal work before a recall would be initiated.

It is also important to remember that the inventor of these warming systems, Dr. Scott Augustine, has publicly spoken out about the dangers of developing infections after using these devices. He has even gone as far as to urge 3M to initiate a voluntary recall based on the inherent dangers presented by using these systems. Additionally, several research studies have shown supportive evidence for the claims that recirculated air can contain many times the amount of harmful bacteria present when compared to non-circulated air.

Scholarly and Journal Articles Concerning Bair Hugger Devices

  • An article published in The Journal of Hospital Infection about a study concerned with the increased risks of surgical site infection caused by Bair Hugger warming blankets has found that recirculated air does in fact contain a high degree of contaminants. This article does not address the increased risk of infection, but the results clearly indicate that further study of such dangers is necessary.
  • Another article in the Bone & Joint Journal looked at the increased bacteria at the surgical site caused by the recirculating currents and drawing contaminated air from underneath the surgical table. Their results found a 1000-fold increase in air particulates at the surgical site when a warming blanket was used.
  • The Anesthesia & Analgesia journal article that studied the effects of patient warming systems on the intended air ventilation of operatory rooms found that the heat produced by devices such as Bair Hugger actually disrupted airflow and exposed the surgical site to added contamination.

Contact an Experienced Bair Hugger Lawsuit Attorney

If you or a loved one has experienced complications following orthopedic surgery that employed the use of a Bair Hugger device, it is imperative that you contact an experienced attorney immediately to protect your rights. Each state has specific time requirements that you must file a claim within or the manufacturer of these products will no longer be liable for your injuries, regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit.

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