Bair Hugger Forced Air-Warming Blankets are Linked to Infections and Lawsuits

Our mass tort law firm looks out for dangerous medical devices that may harm our clients and the public. Dozens of lawsuits have been filed against the makers of a blanket used to keep people warm before and during surgery by former patients who said they suffered from serious infections due to its use.

The popular “Bair Hugger” device has been used for decades in a majority of American hospitals but it has come under increased scrutiny after its inventor called for a recall, and some patients claimed infections were linked to the product.

What are Bair Hugger Blankets?

Bair Hugger is a warming system that maintains a patient's body temperature before and during surgery. The blankets are proven to reduce bleeding and speed up a patient’s recovery time. They maintain a patient’s body temperature as close as possible to normal during the course of surgery.

Bair Hugger blankets are like a forced-air heater. Warm air is forced down a flexible hose and pumped into a blanket that’s placed over the patient who is undergoing surgery. As well as warming air over the patient’s body, air is released by the Bair Hugger under the surgical table during the operation.

The device was invented by Dr. Scott D. Augustine. The surgical equipment includes warming units, blankets and other accessories. It was originally sold through the company Augustine Biomedical and Design. As many as 180 million patients have used the Bair Hugger since it was introduced in the late 1980s and the technology is used in 80 percent of U.S. hospitals.

What Problems Have Been Reported With the Bair Hugger?

The air discharged under the table where a patient is being treated can lead to the dispersal and recirculation of bacteria which can infect the patient’s wound during surgery. There have been cases in which patients claim the air appears to have caused a serious infection in their knee or hip including the Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) or sepsis. If infections end up deep in a patient’s joints they can be very difficult to treat.

MRSA is sometimes called the “super bug.” It’s considerably tougher to treat than most other strains of staphylococcus aureus and it’s resistant to many of the antibiotics that are used in hospitals.

Common symptoms of MRSA

  • Mild skin infections such as boils and sores
  • Serious skin infections
  • Infections on the lungs or urinary tract
  • MRSA can be deadly. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states MRSA was responsible for an estimated 94,000 life-threatening infections and almost 19,000 deaths in 2005.

Common Symptoms of Sepsis

Sepsis affects more than a million Americans a year. It’s a potentially life-threatening condition caused by a massive immune response to infection. Chemicals are released into a patient’s bloodstream to fight infection trigger widespread inflammation.

People affected by sepsis may suffer.

  • Inflammation that can lead to organ damage.
  • Blood clotting that reduces the flow of blood to a patient’s limbs and other internal organs, resulting in a lack of oxygen and nutrients. Organs can fail with fatal consequences.
  • A life-threatening drop in blood pressure known as septic shock, which quickly triggers the failure of important organs such as the kidneys, lungs and liver, leading to death.

Why the Bair Hugger’s Inventor Supports a Recall

Dr. Scott D. Augustine who invented the Bair Hugger more than 20 years ago, says 3M – the company that now manufactures the Bair Hugger - should recall it due to the risk of infections. 3M has disputed the claim.

The doctor from Minnesota warns the warm air process poses a risk to surgical patients who receive implants to their joints and heart valves. Augustine said he is concerned that patients are picking up serious infections. He is expected to provide testimony in forthcoming trials. Today he is the chief executive of a company that uses a device called the HotDog that utilizes conductive heat similar to an electric blanket, rather than forced air as used by the Bair Hugger.

Lawsuits Against the Makers of the Bair Hugger

More than 50 lawsuits have been filed against 3M Co. and the number may grow over the next few years. The patients who are suing say the device circulated contaminants and caused them debilitating and dangerous deep-joint infections.

What You Should Do if You Have Been Infected During Surgery Using the Bear Hugger

Our dangerous devices injury lawyers have helped numerous patients who have been hurt by deadly medical devices and risky surgical procedures. We will provide you with seasoned representation and ensure that your claim is properly handled among the others that are filed in the mass tort litigation. Just because you are part of a class action does not mean you deserve to be treated like a number. We strive to provide personal service and good communication with patients who we help in mass tort cases, like the ones against the makers of the Bair Hugger. A product to keep you warm and comfortable after an operation should not make you sick with a MRSA infection that cannot be treated effectively as is claimed in the case of the Bair Hugger. The newest surgical product or post-operative equipment must “first do no harm.” All doctors, hospitals and medical appliance makers must follow this creed and not leave the patient worse off than they found them. Call us at 757.455.0077 or toll free at 866-455-6657 for a free consultation if you have been injured or suffered an infection from a medical device.