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First Bair Hugger Infection Trials Set for November 2017

Feb 13, 2017
First Bair Hugger Infection Trials Set for November 2017

The proliferation of Bair Hugger lawsuits is not surprising, given the number of surgeries that have used the Bair Hugger warming system over the past 25 years. The Bair Hugger has been used in millions of procedures to keep the patient warm during surgery, but many patients allege they developed serious infections after procedures where the Bair Hugger was used.

A multidistrict litigation (MDL) involving the Bair Hugger has been growing steadily. Court records indicate that between December 15, 2016 and January 15, 2017, 166 Bair Hugger lawsuits were added to the MDL. As of January 15, Arizant Healthcare and 3M face 1,105 cases pending in the MDL in Minnesota. Bair Hugger lawsuits allege that Arizant and 3M failed to warn patients and doctors of the risks associated with the patient warming device. The first trials in the litigation are scheduled to begin in November 2017. Case selection will be completed by March 1, 2017, and the discovery phase should conclude no later than July 1, according to the judge's order.

Parker Waichman has experienced and well-informed device-injury attorneys who can answer questions about a potential Bair Hugger lawsuit.

Bair Hugger Warming System

Anesthesia drugs lower body temperature and operating rooms are customarily kept cool in an effort to reduce migration of bacteria and promote alertness among surgeons and other surgical staff. Dr. Lisa Mouzi, an anesthesiologist with the American Society of Anesthesiologists, explains that low body temperature during surgery can increase the chance of infection, heart attack, and even death. Low body temperature increases "rates of post-operative wound infections (and) delayed wound healing," Mouzi said. A patient with low body temperature tends to bleed more during surgery and this increases the chance of the patient needing a blood transfusion. "Patients lose heat dramatically within the first 30 minutes of anesthesia, so our standard of care is to keep a patient warm," Dr. Mouzi said.

The Bair Hugger system blows warm air from a heating unit through a quilted blanket to warm the patient. The blanket increases the patient's comfort, reduces bleeding, and reduces the risk of infection and post-operative heart attack, Law360 reports. But heat from the Bair Hugger's warming unit can build up under the operating table, creating air currents that blow contaminants from the operating room floor onto open incisions during procedures. Patients having joint replacements are at particular risk for infections from such bacterial contamination.

The Bair Hugger was developed and marketed by Arizant Healthcare, later acquired by 3M. The lawsuits in the MDL allege that the Bair Hugger system upsets the controlled flow of germ-free air within the operating room. Plaintiffs allege the Bair Hugger's design is flawed and promotes deep joint infection. Bacteria normally at floor level, well away from the surgical site, can be introduced into the surgical site by air currents created by the Bair Hugger system.

Deep Joint Infections

Deep Joint Infections

According to legal documents in Bair Hugger lawsuits, patients undergoing joint replacement surgery are at greatest risk for infections acquired during surgery. Hundreds of patients have developed Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections. Treatment can be lengthy and difficult, especially when the infection settles into the plastic or metal joint device, where the immune system can have difficulty fighting the infection. In addition to antibiotics, treatment can involve surgery to remove infected tissue and clean the infected site. In some cases, the joint device harboring the infection must be removed and replaced. And at least two Bair Hugger plaintiffs say they had a leg amputated because of a deep joint infection that could not be controlled. Recovery from the infection can require a lengthy hospital stay.

The Mayo Clinic explains that a stubborn infection can progress to sepsis, a life-threatening complication of infection. Sepsis can cause organ damage and organ failure. When sepsis progresses to septic shock, the patient's blood pressure can drop dramatically and the patient can die.

In a 2010 interview with the New York Times, Dr. Scott Augustine, the Bair Hugger's inventor, expressed his concern about the infection risk. Though Augustine believes the Bair Hugger is an improvement over earlier patient warming systems, he feels the Bair Hugger creates a danger of infection when used during joint replacement and heart valve surgery. Augustine thinks hospitals should discontinue use of the Bair Hugger.

Legal Help for Bair Hugger Infections

If you or someone you know has developed a serious infection after surgery where the Bair Hugger warming system was used, contact the attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP for a free, no obligation case evaluation. To reach the firm, fill out the contact form or call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).

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