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Hundreds of surgical infection lawsuits linked to the 3M Bair Hugger forced air warming blanket are currently being litigated in the U.S. federal district court in Minnesota.

The Bair Hugger is a portable forced-air heater that is connected by a flexible hose to a disposable warming blanket that covers a patient during surgery.  During joint implant surgeries, the blanket blows warm air on the patient’s skin to regulate body temperature and prevent hypothermia.

However, a number of scientific studies show that when the device discharges air underneath the surgical table, it picks up bacteria from the dirty operating room floor.  The contaminated air is then recirculated to the surgical site, placing patients at risk of catastrophic complications such as MRSA, sepsis and other infections. These infections are very difficult to treat when they occur deep in a patient’s joint and often result in a combination of surgeries and antibiotic therapy.  In severe cases, amputation may be necessary.

Research published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery found that air circulated by a forced air warming system contained 2,000 times more potentially contaminated particles when compared to air circulated by a similar device.  Another study in the same publication reported that deep joint infections had decreased by 74% when surgeons at a U.K. hospital stopped using forced air warming blankets during implant surgery.

Notably, 3M has publicly attempted to discredit any scientific research that has found an increased risk of hip and knee infections with the use of their Bair Hugger products.

The pending lawsuits allege that 3M and its Arizant Healthcare, Inc. subsidiary have known about the increased risks of joint infections for years, but didn’t re-design the machine to make it safer, nor did they warn doctors.  Rather, the defendants concealed the issue from regulators and the medical community and, to this day, continue to aggressively and misleadingly market the Bair Hugger system as safe for use in orthopedic surgery.

Lawsuits continue to be filed on behalf of hip and knee replacement patients who developed serious post-operative deep joint infections due to the use of the forced air warming blanket during their surgery.

If you suffered a serious post-operative infection following joint implant surgery, the 3M Bair Hugger device may be to blame. To learn more, please contact the attorneys at Paglialunga and Harris, PS.

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