Hypothermia in patients is common during surgery because anesthetics disrupt normal control of body temperature and operating rooms are kept cool. As hypothermia can cause serious complications, warming surgical patients to help prevent hypothermia is now the standard-of-care. Hospitals have used Bair Hugger forced-air warming blankets on more than 180 million patients since it was introduced in 1988, and more than 80% of hospitals in the U.S. use Bair Hugger blankets today.
Bair Hugger blankets are temperature management systems that use forced-air warming to prevent hypothermia in patients during surgery. Bair Hugger warming units filter air, then force warm air through Bair Hugger disposable blankets which cover patients before, during and after surgery. Since these blankets are generally used in surgical procedures where a patient is placed under anesthesia, most patients never find out that this product was used during their surgery.
Despite its popularity, many doctors are concerned about using Bair Hugger blankets during orthopedic surgery and other surgeries involving implants, because those surgeries often carry a high risk of contamination and infection. Since 2011, multiple medical studies have found forced-air warming systems carry a higher risk of surgical site contamination than other warming methods. Waste heat from the poorly insulated forced-air warming blanket increases the temperature and concentration of airborne particles over the surgical site. The increased temperature over the surgical site creates convection currents that mobilize air from non-sterile areas, such as the floor and under the anesthesia surgery drape, into the surgical site. These convection currents draw potentially contaminated particles from below the operating table into the surgical site, significantly increasing the risk of severe infection.
Although the body’s natural immune system can eliminate most infections in the bloodstream, it is more difficult for the immune system to attack bacteria on foreign objects, such as metal and plastic hip or knee implants. When an infection makes it to an implant, it can multiply rapidly, causing pain, swelling, fever, and fatigue. Deep joint infections can lead to hospitalization, implant revision surgery, permanent disability, amputation, and if left untreated, death.
Dr. Scott Augustine, developer of the Bair Hugger warming blanket, has campaigned against his own invention since 2002, warning doctors and patients of the risk of infection associated with his invention. Hundreds of patients who developed infections after surgery involving Bair Hugger blankets have filed lawsuits against the devices manufacturer, 3M and Arizant. Bair Hugger lawsuits seek damages for medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages and punitive damages.
If you or a loved one developed an infection after a hip or knee replacement, contact our office online or call us today at 855-FARR-LAW or (941) 639-1158 to discuss your case with an experienced lawyer. We work to help the victims of defective medical devices get compensation for the harm done to them.