A Forced Air Warming blanket (FAW) is a medical device designed to keep patients warm during orthopedic surgery and reduce the risk of infections. A lower body temperature, or hypothermia, is a hazard for post operative diseases, therefore forced air warming blankets were introduced to keep the patient’s temperature stable during surgery.
However, a study published in the Bone & Joint Journal regarding airborne contaminants found that many hip and knee replacement patients developed a bacterial disease leading to invasive repair operations and in a few instances even amputation. Hospitals and orthopedic surgeons had used the 3M Bair Hugger Warming System for over thirty years as their go to FAW only to realize it was causing harm. More than 80 percent of hospitals in the United States were using Bair Hugger warming blankets in millions of surgeries each year.
How the Bair Hugger warming blanket system works is it pushes warm air through a hose into a blanket draped over a patient who is under anesthesia. Keeping a patient warm during surgery produces other benefits besides patient temperature stability such as less bleeding and a faster recovery. However, the specific harm that was found to be caused by Bair Hugger was it put patients at an increased risk of deep joint and other hospital acquired infections such as sepsis or Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
According to an eye opening article in the New York Times, the Bair Hugger warming system has a propensity for picking up bacteria-contaminated air and blowing harmful pathogens directly onto the sterile surgical site. The Times went on to report that from 1990 to the present, there was a clear connection between the use of the Bair Hugger and the incidence of prosthetic joint infections.
It has been found that 3M Bair Hugger complications can require the following treatment:
- Additional revision surgeries and longer hospitalization
- Joint implant removal and revision
- Physical therapy
- Placement of an antibiotic spacer in the infected joint
- Intravenous antibiotic treatment
There is always a risk of adverse events during surgery. However, manufacturers have a duty to inform both healthcare professionals and the public when it is realizes that their product is causing harm. In this instance, 3M was not forthright and even misled the FDA.
If you have been acquired an infection as a result of the Bair Hugger warming blanket system being used in your knee or hip replacement surgery, you should seek the services of an experienced personal injury lawyer. Contact attorney Michael Pence to schedule your consultation.