The Bair Hugger is a forced-air warming blanket that has endured a lot of scrutiny recently for the lawsuits filed by patients claiming that their infection during surgery is caused by the Bair Hugger. But now, the patients feel that 3M, the maker of the device, is “using their size and power to buy up experts and buy up science,” according to an attorney representing Tommy Walton, one of the many patients with surgery infections after the Bair Hugger was used.
In December, the lawsuits against 3M and its subsidiary, Arizant Healthcare Inc., were sent to Minnesota federal court, creating a multidistrict litigation (MDL) for the suits from at least six different states in the U.S. Dozens of lawsuits have been filed at this point, and at least 50 tag-along suits are pending in other federal courts.
The alleged flaw in the Bair Hugger design is that the blower part of the system is usually placed below the operating room table, and blows waste heat across the operating room floor, disturbing the delicate airflow and sending contaminates picked up from the floor back onto the patient and the surgical site. This is dangerous especially for joint replacement surgeries, where the contaminates can attach to the implanted device, such as a hip or knee implant, and cause serious infection.
Rosie Bartel is also a victim of infection following the use of a Bair Hugger blanket. While having a knee replacement surgery, Bartel developed MRSA infection, a particularly dangerous and antibiotic-resistant strain of staph infection. Bartel has since undergone 27 surgeries to help her get rid of the horrible infection that was threatening her life. Her leg was amputated just below the hip, but the MRSA infection is still active in the bone.