How Bair Hugger® Therapy Works
In 1987, Dr. Scott Augustine, an anesthesiologist, introduced a product known as the Bair Hugger to the medical market.
The Bair Hugger is a surgical blanket used to regulate patients’ body temperatures during procedures such as joint surgeries. Bair Hugger Blankets use temperature management systems that force warm air throughout to prevent Bair Hugger Blanket and treat hypothermia in patients during surgery. Hypothermia during surgery can lead to blood loss, infections and prolonged hospital stays.
Dr. Augustine’s warming invention became wildly popular, and in 2010, 3M bought the device’s manufacturing company for $800 million. As of 2017, the Bair Hugger had been implemented in 200 million surgeries and was used by four out of five hospitals.
Despite its friendly-sounding name, some doctors now believe the Bair Hugger caused serious infections in thousands of patients. Dr. Augustine himself has condemned the device and said it’s especially dangerous when used in joint surgeries.
But why did it take nearly 30 years for this information to come to light? Well, tying medical devices to surgical complications is tricky. Every surgery carries a risk of infection or injury, and patients often assume that post-op illnesses are par for the course. It often takes many patients coming forward before the medical community finds the link to a particular device.
The Bair Hugger’s® Design Flaws
The Bair Hugger’s flaws became clear when a significant number of patients contracted deep joint infections after being exposed to the device. Researchers studied the Bair Hugger’s design and determined that its forced-air mechanism blows contaminants from the operating room floor to the surgical field and into patients’ joints.
Every surgery carries a risk of infection or injury, and patients often assume that post-op illnesses are par for the course.
Since the patients’ immune systems were already compromised from surgery, the infections made recovery even more challenging. Joint infections are difficult to treat under any circumstances because they’re hard to reach, but battling them after an intensive procedure adds a whole other level of pain and urgency.
Signs of Infection from the Bair Hugger® Blanket
People who contracted infections from the Bair Hugger typically experienced:
- Discharge around the site of the surgical incision
In cases that didn’t clear within a few weeks of surgery, doctors normally ran tests to determine what type of bacteria was causing the infection. Deep-seated joint infections usually require antibiotics to fight off the bug, and doctors need to find out what strain of bacteria is at play so they can prescribe the right medicines.
Unfortunately, doctors don’t always consider the Bair Hugger a potential source of infection. Patients don’t need to give consent to commonly used devices, and until a problem becomes widely known, they may assume you’re simply having a bad reaction to the surgery.
Who Is at Risk for Infection?
The patients who suffered most from Bair Hugger infections had undergone major orthopedic surgeries such as hip and knee replacements. Again, infections are common during recovery, so if you became ill after such a procedure, it may not be due to the Bair Hugger.
The device is very popular, but not all hospitals purchase it. Even in hospitals that carry the Bair Hugger, not all doctors use it during procedures, so there’s a chance your infection was caused by a different issue entirely.
However, researchers found that infection rates were far higher among patients who were exposed to the Bair Hugger than those who weren’t. And having the inventor himself speak out against the product is quite damning.
If you’ve suffered an infection after joint surgery, we recommend contacting a lawyer, because there’s a chance that you could join a growing number of patients taking legal action against 3M.
What to Know Before Hiring a Lawyer for a Bair Hugger® Case
A lawyer will help you determine whether the device was used during your surgery, and if so, whether your infection type matches those seen in Bair Hugger cases. Sorting out these details is complicated and time-consuming, and a good firm will know how to navigate the process.
It’s important to note that not all lawyers are created equal, especially when it comes to cases like these. The Bair Hugger infection suits have gained a great deal of media attention recently, and that’s brought a lot of firms out of the woodwork. If you conduct an internet search for law firms that represent Bair Hugger victims, you’ll find an overwhelming number of results.
But do your due diligence before contacting any attorneys. In mass tort cases, as this one is likely to be, you want to work with a firm that has a long, successful track record with this type of litigation. The Bair Hugger contamination issues present unique challenges, and proving that they caused infections requires meticulous documentation and careful presentation in court.
Before signing on with a firm, ask what types of cases they typically take and what their results have been. Make sure they aren’t outsourcing your case to another firm, which has become common practice. Your best chance at receiving the damages you deserve is working with an experienced legal team that understands the nuances of these situations and can build a strong case for you.
If you believe you may have suffered an infection as a result of the Bair Hugger surgical warming blanket, contact Van Wey Law for a free consultation. We’ll chat with you about your circumstances and advise you on the best next steps.