Manufacturer 3M faces a new lawsuit over the Bair Hugger surgical warming blanket after a New York woman developed a deep joint infection when the Bair Hugger was used during her surgery.
The lawsuit alleges that the when the warming blanket was used during her surgery, it stirred up bacteria that entered the surgical site, Top Class Actions reports.
Warming blankets are used to keep patients warm during surgery to increase the patient’s comfort, reduce bleeding, shorten recovery time, and reduce the risk of infection and post-operative heart attack, according to Law360. But lawsuits allege that the Bair Hugger’s forced air warming mechanism stirs up bacteria on the operating room floor and can blow contaminants across open surgical sites. Patients undergoing joint replacement surgeries are at greatest risk for infection contracted during surgery.
The New York plaintiff alleges that 3M and Arizant HealthCare failed to warn her about the possibility of deep joint infections. The woman underwent surgery September 2013 after the surgery she developed Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). She had multiple irrigation procedures, removal of damaged tissue (debridement) and other treatments for the infection. Treatments occurred between December 13, 2014 and June 2, 2016. The woman is seeking damages for failure to warn and multiple counts of negligence, according to Top Class Actions.
Treatment for MRSA can be difficult. A Baltimore man who developed MRSA after a knee replacement where the Bair Hugger was used now has limited mobility and difficulty walking, even a number of additional surgeries and other treatments. To treat the infection, some patients have had to have joint replacement devices removed and replaced. A stubborn infection can progress to sepsis, a life-threatening complication. The Mayo Clinic explains that sepsis can cause organ damage and organ failure. If sepsis progresses to septic shock, the patient’s blood pressure can drop dramatically and this can result in death.
A 2013 study in Bone & Joint Journal found that forced air warming significantly increased the number of airborne particles that would come into contact with the surgical site. The authors of the study did not conclude that these particles included bacteria, but they said they were concerned by the findings.
Though many surgeons favor using a warming blanket for its benefits to the patient, Dr. Scott Augustine, the Bair Hugger’s inventor, is concerned about the infection risk. In a 2010 interview with the New York Times, Augustine said while he believes the Bair Hugger is an improvement over earlier patient warming equipment, he feels the Bair Hugger creates a danger of infection when used during joint replacement and heart valve surgery. Augustine thinks hospitals should discontinue use of the Bair Hugger.