It has long been the practice of surgeons to keep an anesthetized patient warm, believing a normothermic patient may have reduced incidence of post-surgical bleeding, surgical site infection, and potentially a shorter recovery time. One method hospitals use to keep surgical patients “normothermic” is an air warmer system. The Bair Hugger® in one such device. The Bair Hugger is a hot air warming blanket connected to a heater/blower that keeps the body warm by blowing hot air on a patient’s exposed skin during a surgical procedure.
One purpose of the Bair Hugger® is to reduce the risk of infection, however, recent studies suggest the system may actually cause infections by blowing bacteria-contaminated air into open surgical wounds. The risk of infection is particularly serious for those undergoing hip and knee replacements or undergoing heart surgery requiring implants.
Bair Hugger has been associated with a significant increase in the rate of deep tissue infections following total joint replacement surgeries. These deep infections often require multiple surgeries including debridement, to replace the implant, wash out the joint and administer antibiotics.
The Bair Hugger® device is manufactured and distributed by Arizant, a wholly owned subsidiary of 3M, and is used in tens of thousands of hip and knee replacement surgeries every year. Most patients are likely to be unaware if the Bair Hugger device was used in their surgery. If you have had a hip or knee replacement surgery that resulted in infection in the last 5 years and you have had any of the following, your infection may be related to the Bair Hugger®:
Deep tissue infection
Swelling at surgical site
IV antibiotic therapy
Additional surgery required to clear an infection
Removal and revision of the implant device
If you or a loved one underwent a hip or knee replacement after 2009 and subsequently developed an infection at the surgical site, please call our office for a free consultation at (888) 728-9866. We will help you determine whether a Bair Hugger was used during your surgery and, if so, whether you may have a compensable claim against Arizant and 3M.
a. Albrecht M, et al. Forced-air warming blowers: An evaluation of ﬁltration adequacy and airborne contamination emissions in the operating room. Am J Infect Control 2010;39:321-8;
b. Leaper D, et al. Forced-air warming: a source of airborne contamination in the operating room? Orthopedic Rev. 2009;1(2):e28;
c. McGovern, P.D., et al. Forced-air warming and ultra-clean ventilation do not mix. J Bone and Joint Surg-Br. 2011;93-B(11):1537-1544;
d. Legg, A. et al. Do forced air patient-warming devices disrupt unidirectional downward airflow? J Bone and Joint Surg-Br. 2012;94-B:254-6;
e. Belani, K., et al. Patient warming excess heat: The effects on orthopedic operating room ventilation performance. Anesthesia & Analgesia 2012 (prepublication on-line) 2013;117(2):406-411;
f. Dasari, K.B., et al. Effect of forced air warming on the performance of operating theatre laminar ﬂow ventilation. Anaesthesia 2012;67:244-249.