The Bair Hugger Warming Blanket has come under scrutiny lately, as it allegedly causes “a disproportionate amount of deep-joint infections”. The warming blankets, which are manufactured by 3M and its subsidiary Arizant, keep perioperative patients warm, lowering recovery time and preventing blood loss during and after surgery. The blankets do this through the use of forced-air. Outside air is heated and pumped into a disposable, inflatable blanket through a hose. Air from the blanket is released underneath the surgical table, which can cause microbes on the floor to become airborne and circulate throughout the room, including the surgical site. Because of this, there seems to be a correlation between Bair Hugger use and a higher rate of harder-to-treat infections. Most of these infections happen during knee and hip replacement surgeries, due to the fact that the bacteria can essentially “stick” to the implant and develop and immunity to regular antibiotics. This has caused many patients to undergo additional surgeries and even amputations. In addition, filters within the air-pumps themselves have been found to be beneath regulatory standards, and as a result, bacteria and mold accumulate inside the hose and the rest of the air pump. This means that pathogens are blown directly into the blanket and back into the room’s circulating air. There is evidence that Arizant knew of the filtration problems far back as 1997 and was potentially untruthful to the FDA regarding it.
The Bair Hugger Warming Blanket was invented in 1987 by Dr. Scott Augustine of Minnesota. Augustine was the CEO of Arizant, formerly known as Augustine Medical, until his resignation in 2002. Arizant was later acquired by 3M in 2010. Since then, he has come out against his invention and is an active voice in trying to limit the use of the Bair Hugger.
In a video-online statement, while not referring to Dr. Augustine by name, 3M states that the claims against them are baseless, and that they are a marketing ploy by a competitor. They fail to mention, however, that Augustine invented the Bair Hugger. There are also many studies by reputable scientific sources, including the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery and the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, that support the plaintiffs in the many lawsuits filed across the nation and Dr. Augustine. Nevertheless, 3M and Arizant have vigorously marketed the blankets as safe.
Your Options: If you have suffered a deep-joint or tissue infection and used a Bair Hugger Warming Blanket, before, during, or after surgery, you may have a case against 3M and Arizant. If you are unsure if you used a Bair Hugger Warming Blanket, you likely still have a case, as the blankets are used in 80% of hospitals nationwide. Over 260 lawsuits have been filed nationally thus far. Although no award has gone to a Plaintiff yet, evidence and pressure is building for a large-scale clinical study to definitively tie Bair Hugger to heightened infection risk. If you believe that you have a case, it is important for you to speak with an attorney at our law firm so we can discuss the specifics of what has happened to you and the likelihood of being able to prove your case against 3M and Arizant.