July 21, 2015 — A lawsuit has been filed in Texas on behalf of a 70 year-old man who developed a deep joint infection he says was caused by 3M’s Bair Hugger, a forced-air warming blanket that can blow bacteria into a sterile surgical site.
The lawsuit (PDF) was filed against 3M Co. and its subsidiary, Arizant Healthcare Inc., by plaintiff Tommy Walton, a resident of Texas. He is seeking more than $1 million in damages.
In March 2011, Walton underwent routine orthopedic surgery in Houston to replace his right hip. During surgery, his anesthesiologist used a Bair Hugger.
The Bair Hugger consists of a portable heater/blower connected by a flexible hose to a disposable blanket that is draped over a patient. The forced-air system warms a patient during surgery by blowing hot air on their exposed skin. The problem, according to the lawsuit:
“As this warmed air rises, it deposits bacteria from the floor of the surgical room into the surgical site. Furthermore, the internal airflow paths of Bair Hugger FAW blowers have become contaminated with pathogens.”
Afterward, he developed a deep joint infection and eventually needed 15 surgeries, including removal of the artificial hip, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
The inventor of the Bair Hugger, an anesthesiologist named Dr. Scott Augustine, told The New York Times in 2010 that hospitals should stop using the Bair Hugger and start using another device he invented that works more like an electric blanket. He said the Bair Hugger can potentially .
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