Bair Hugger Surgical Warming Blankets

3M’s Bair Hugger system is used in a hospital or surgical setting to help patients maintain their core body temperature throughout their procedure. It’s comprised of a disposable inflatable blanket and a reusable forced-air warming blower that have been linked to increased risk of infection following joint replacement surgery.

If you or a loved one has suffered a deep infection following a hip or knee replacement, contact one of our Bair Hugger lawyers. Our team will handle your case and make sure you are represented fairly. Leave the sleepless nights to us.

Case Quick Facts

The Problem

Studies suggest that the Bair Hugger may increase the spread of contaminant particles during surgery and may increase the risk of serious infection during orthopedic surgery, such as hip and knee implant procedures.

The Injuries

In knee and hip surgeries, the Bair Hugger may increase the risk of developing an infection deep in the joint. These infections are resistant to antibiotics and often result in additional surgeries, possible amputation, and death.

The Defendant(s)

3M, one of the world’s largest companies, manufactures and distributes the Bair Hugger.  The Bair Hugger was originally developed by Dr. Scott D. Augustine in 1988 and was sold to 3M in 2009.

GoldenbergLaw Can Help

The litigation status is currently active. Hundreds of orthopedic surgical patients have filed suit against 3M alleging that the Bair Hugger caused their infections. The Federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) is centralized in the District of Minnesota and assigned to Judge Joan N. Ericksen. GoldenbergLaw Partner Noah Lauricella is a member of the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee and Co-Chair of the PSC’s Bellwether Committee. Consolidated proceedings are also moving forward in Ramsey County, Minnesota before Judge William H. Leary III. The second bellwether trial in the MDL is scheduled to begin May 2019.

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What is the Bair Hugger?

  • Bair Hugger forced-air warming blankets have been used during a variety of surgeries to decrease the risk of hypothermia by circulating warm air over the body during surgery.
  • The Bair Hugger was developed by Dr. Scott D. Augustine in 1988 and sold to 3M in 2009. Dr. Augustine now says the device is no longer safe for use during orthopedic surgery.
  •  In a 2010 statement made to The New York Times regarding his invention, Dr. Augustine said: “I am very proud of the old technology [that I created] … but I am also proud to spread the word that there is a problem.”  

Why is the Bair Hugger Dangerous?

Studies suggest that the Bair Hugger may increase the spread of contaminant particles during surgery and may increase the risk of serious infection during orthopedic surgery, such as hip and knee implant procedures.

In knee and hip surgeries, the Bair Hugger may increase the risk of developing an infection deep in the joint. These infections are resistant to antibiotics and often result in additional surgeries, possible amputation, and death.

The Bair Hugger has two components:

  1. A disposable inflatable blanket
  2. A reusable forced-air warming blower
    • Cool sterile air is pulled in by the forced air warming blower, flowing over the patient’s body.
    • Waste heat is pushed towards the non-sterile floor, which then rises through convection currents as bacteria-contaminated air.
    • The forced-air warming blower takes in the contaminated air, spreading bacteria over the orthopedic patient’s open surgical wound.

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Current Litigation

Over 3,000 surgical patients have filed suit against 3M alleging that the Bair Hugger blankets were the cause of their infections. In December 2015, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation centralized all federal Bair Hugger cases in multidistrict litigation (MDL) No. 2666 in the District of Minnesota. The MDL is assigned to Judge Joan Ericksen. The cases in the MDL, while joined together for investigatory purposes, are still separate and distinct regarding individual causation and damages.

In their complaints, the plaintiffs allege they have suffered significant injuries on account of the use of Bair Hugger warming blankets during their orthopedic surgeries. Plaintiffs also allege that 3M:

  • Knew about the risks involved with the Bair Hugger
  • Failed to warn of those risks
  • Failed to redesign the product to increase its safety
  • Fought to hide and denounce scientific data demonstrating such risks

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Studies Regarding the Bair Hugger & Surgical Site Infections

"Forced-air warming was found to have a significant & disruptive impact on the clean airflow patterns over the surgical site compared to conductive fabric warming, which had no noticeable effect." 

"Forced-air warming establish convection currents that mobilized resident air from non-sterile areas such as the floor under the anesthesia/surgery drape into the surgical site."

According to scientific literature, the Bair Hugger can circulate contaminants in the operating room and increase the risk of infection. Circulation of contaminants from the surgical floor into the portions of the operating room intended to remain sterile can cause ferms & bacteria to land on an orthopedic patient's surgical site. If that bacteria lands on the hip or knew implant during surgery, it can create a biofilm that is resistant to antibiotics. Such infections occurring deep in the patient's hip or knee joint can be difficult to treat & can result in additional surgeries, amputation, or even death. 

"A significant increase in deep joint infection, as demonstrated by an elevated infection odds ratio (3.8,p=0.024), was identified during a period when forced-air warming was used compared to a period when conductive fabric warming was used. Air-free warming is, therefore, recommended over forced-air warming for orthopedic procedures."

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