INFECTION FOLLOWING SURGERY: ARE WARMING BLANKETS THE CAUSE?
Commonly Used Surgical Warming Device May Circulate Contaminants Over Patient Causing Infections
More lawsuits are being filed daily by plaintiffs blaming the Bair Hugger forced-air warming blanket of causing debilitating deep-joint infections following surgery. According to a US Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation report, as of August 15, 2016, 547 actions are now pending against 3M, manufacturer of the Bair Hugger.
The 3M™ Bair Hugger is a forced hot air warming blanket used to help maintain a patient’s body temperature during surgery. The air-fed blanket pushes warm air through a flexible hose into a blanket draped over the patient. Unfortunately, warming blankets can re-circulate contaminated air over a patient’s body and an open surgical site. This can result in serious infections like MRSA and sepsis.
This warming device is used in 8 of 10 U.S. hospitals. Patients undergoing knee or hip replacement surgery are at particular risk of deep joint infections that are very difficult to treat.
Interestingly, the developer of the Bair Hugger warming device, Dr. Scott Augustine, is also on of its biggest critics. He wants hospitals to stop using the device during certain operations, claiming it poses a danger to patients. According to Dr. Augustine, “The Bair Hugger is a danger to surgical patients receiving implant devices like artificial heart valves and joints.” One study, which included more than 1,400 patients undergoing hip or knee replacement over a 2.5 year period, reported “a significant increase in deep joint infection…when forced air warming was used, compared to a period when conductive fabric warming was used.” (J. Bone Joint Surg. Br. 2011;93:1537-44)
The federal courts recently established a multi-district litigation and assigned all cases to US District Judge Joan Ericksen Minnesota. Attorney Martin Crump has been appointed to the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee for the Bair Hugger “Forced Air Warming” Products Liability Litigation by Judge Ericksen.
The Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee of an MDL (multi-district litigation) performs the day to day work to advance the litigation and makes decisions relative to the course and path of the litigation as a whole. As such, Crump will be given the opportunity to participate with other mass tort law firms from around the country to advance this important litigation.
“The significance of being appointed to a Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee is that the hundreds of clients that Davis & Crump P.C. represent in this litigation will have a voice through their counsel in the leadership structure,” said Crump.