The 3M Bair Hugger System is a medical device used in the operating room by doctors. This device includes a warming blanket that is intended to maintain the body temperature of a patient undergoing a procedure, as being kept warm during surgery has been shown to reduce bleeding and decrease post-operation recovery time. However, some patients who have been treated using the Bair Hugger warming blankets, especially those who have undergone hip or knee replacement, have suffered from severe and life-threatening infections in their new artificial joints after the procedure.
The Trouble With Forced-Air Warming Devices
The Bair Hugger device has been in use since 1987, and the device is believed to have been used in over 200 million surgeries since. Recent research indicates, though, that the forced-air method of heating that the Bair Hugger uses can spread bacteria into the sterile field, causing deep infections that can be extremely difficult to treat.
One study published in 2009 found that as many as 24 percent of forced-air warming (FAW) devices were “emitting significant levels of internally generated airborne contamination.” The study also found that that a shocking 94 percent of FAW devices had detectable microorganisms on internal air path surfaces. Four other studies have provided further evidence that devices such as the Bair Hugger simply aren’t safe, including findings showing that the air filters used are inadequate, there are “significant” increases in infections when using FAW devices, and that convection currents created by the device can carry potentially infectious air directly into the sterile surgical field.
Even the inventor of the device, Dr. Scott Augustine, has started campaigning against the use of the Bair Hugger, claiming that the risk of infection was known even before 3M purchased Arizant, the company that initially produced the Bair Hugger, in 2010.
Despite the pleas of the inventor and multiple studies showing otherwise, 3M still maintains that there is no evidence that the Bair Hugger is responsible for infections.
Bair Hugger Lawsuit Timeline
Lawsuits against 3M began as early as 2013, when a Texas man sued for damages over a dangerous joint infection alleged to have been caused by the Bair Hugger. In 2014, a Kansas man also filed a federal lawsuit after a MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus) infection after a knee surgery. The infection was so severe that it resulted in the amputation of the patient’s leg. Another patient filed a similar lawsuit in 2014, as well, after a MRSA infection resulted in no less than eleven more surgeries and the amputation of her leg.
Over 800 cases have since been filed against the manufacturer, including allegations that the product is faulty and the manufacturer has known so for over two decades, yet has concealed the facts and failed to warn patients or doctors of the increased infection risk. So many complaints have been filed, in fact, that a Multi-District Litigation (MDL) was created in September of 2016, which consolidated many of the lawsuits together to speed up the litigation process.
Right now, the court is deciding on as many as eight cases that will be tried as “bellwether” cases, the outcomes of which will determine how the remainder of the lawsuits will be handled by the court. The cases chosen to be bellwethers should be finalized in early March 2017, and trials are slated to begin in November.
How to Get Legal Help
If you’ve suffered from a life-threatening infection or other complication after a knee or hip replacement surgery, it’s not too late to get legal help. You may be eligible to receive financial compensation for your trouble, including money for:
- Medical bills and related expenses
- Rehabilitation and physical or mental therapy costs
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Punitive damages
Wayne Wright LLP has been standing up against companies that sell dangerous medical devices and other defective products to unsuspecting consumers for many years. If you or a loved one have been hurt by a defective medical device, we’d like to hear from you today. To talk to our experienced legal team about your situation, call us today at 800-237-3334 for a free case evaluation. We have offices conveniently located in San Antonio, Austin, Corpus Christi, and El Paso, and we’re proud to serve clients all across the great state of Texas.