Complications from Surgical Warming Blankets

The Bair Hugger system is a type of warming blanket manufactured by 3M, that is used to maintain a patient’s body temperature during surgery. The device forces warm air through a flexible hose to increase the temperature beneath a surgical blanket. Patients who are under anesthesia tend to experience a drop in body temperature, which can lead to increased bleeding and a prolonged recovery time. 

Man in a hospital bed
Patients who underwent a procedure that used a Bair Hugger surgical warming blanket have experienced an alarming number of complications.

Operating rooms typically have a ventilation system that pushes air from the ceiling to the floor, a design that minimizes the chance of contaminating the surgical site with bacteria. However, due to the nature of a forced air system, warm air can be circulated underneath the surgical table, creating a convection current that pulls air up from the floor. When this recirculated air is contaminated with bacteria and introduced to the surgical site, the risk of complications from surgical warming blankets increases. Many patients have already filed claims in the Bair Hugger lawsuit after developing an injury following a surgical procedure. If you or a loved one experienced complications after surgery in which a Bair Hugger warming blanket was used, please contact an experienced defective medical device attorney to explore your legal rights and stay updated on the current status of litigation.

Complications from Bair Hugger Devices

Following orthopedic surgeries, such as hip or knee replacement procedures in which Bair Hugger warming blankets were used, some patients have developed serious deep joint infections at the implant site. A deep joint infection can occur when bacteria is allowed to build up in and around the implant, making it difficult for the body’s natural immune response to fight against it. Additionally, bacteria can form a protective shield around the implant, which makes antibiotic therapy and other non-surgical interventions ineffective.

Symptoms of a Deep Joint Infection

Patients who are experiencing deep joint infections may experience painful or uncomfortable symptoms, including: 

  • Chills 
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Fatigue or extreme tiredness
  • Swelling around the implant site
  • Pain or stiffness in the implant area
  • Drainage at the incision site.


The most common type of infection that occurs in patients who have had hip or knee implant surgery is caused by MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) bacteria. MRSA infections are most commonly found in patients who have been hospitalized. While many types of staphylococcus aureus (staph) bacteria are relatively harmless, MRSA is resistant to antibiotic therapies and therefore difficult to treat. MRSA became problematic through the over-prescription of antibiotics over many years, often to treat viral infections which do not respond to antibiotic therapy. Even when these medications are prescribed and used appropriately, it is difficult to completely eliminate all of the bacterial infection. Any bacteria that remains after treatment will develop a tolerance to the particular antibiotic that was used. The remaining bacteria can pass on this resistance as they divide and multiply. 


Sepsis can occur when an infection is allowed to progress untreated. Under normal conditions, the body’s immune system sends chemicals through the bloodstream to fight off an infection. Sepsis occurs when these chemicals trigger inflammation throughout the patient’s body, which can damage different organ systems, ultimately causing them to fail. When sepsis progresses to septic shock, the body’s blood pressure drops dramatically, which can eventually lead to death. 

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Because of the difficulty involved in treating deep joint infections, patients carry an especially high risk of developing sepsis. 

Symptoms of sepsis include the typical signs of infection, such as vomiting, diarrhea, or a sore throat. Additionally, patients may also experience: 

  • High or low body temperature
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Labored breathing
  • Decreased urine output
  • Abdominal pain

Patients exhibiting signs of sepsis need to seek immediate medical care. Sepsis is usually treated in the hospital with antibiotics, oxygen, and IV fluids. Some patients may need additional treatments such as kidney dialysis. Many people recover from sepsis without any long-term complications, but some may experience organ damage. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the fatality rate of people with sepsis is between 28 and 50%.

Treatment for Deep Joint Infections

In most cases of deep joint infections, surgery is required to treat the infection. For infections that are caught early, debridement may be a sufficient treatment. Debridement is a surgical washout of the infected joint. All of the contaminated soft tissues are removed, the implant is thoroughly cleaned, and any plastic liners or spacers that were used are replaced.

Implant Revision

For infections that occur many months or years after surgery, or those that have gone untreated for a long period of time, surgical removal of the implant is typically necessary. This surgery is usually performed as a staged treatment. During the first stage, the implant is removed and the joint and surrounding soft tissues are thoroughly cleaned. An antibiotic spacer is placed in the joint to maintain normal spacing and alignment. The patient will be given IV antibiotics for at least six weeks to ensure that the infection has been completely eliminated. Once the infection has been cured, the patient may undergo revision surgery to replace the missing joint. During the revision surgery, the antibiotic spacers will be removed, the joint and soft tissues will be washed out again, and the new implant will be placed.


Unfortunately, many patients experience infections that cannot be treated with antibiotics or implant revision surgeries. When less-invasive treatments are ineffective, amputation may be the only method to prevent the infection from causing more damage. 

Permanent Disability and Wrongful Death

Many patients who have suffered deep joint infections that were allowed to proliferate without treatment are now permanently disabled. Some cases of infection have spread to other bodily systems and resulted in death. 

Compensation for Complications

People who suffer serious complications from the use of Bair Hugger warming blankets during surgery may be able to recover compensation for their injuries by filing a lawsuit. Those claimants who undergo revision surgeries may not recover full use of their joint. Patients who require an amputation may be forced to make significant lifestyle changes to compensate. 

If you have suffered injuries after a surgery that used a Bair Hugger warming blanket, an experienced attorney can help you determine the appropriate amount of damages to pursue. In addition to medical expenses and lost wages, you may be entitled to damages for pain and suffering. 

Contact a Defective Medical Device Attorney

Bair Hugger warming blankets are used in hundreds of thousands of surgeries each year. Some patients suffer complications like deep joint infections following hip or knee implant surgeries where a Bair Hugger device was used. If you or a loved one has experienced complications following a procedure, please get in touch with an experienced defective products attorney today to schedule a complimentary case evaluation and learn more about the timeline of the lawsuit.

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