July 14, 2015 — Hot air patient warming devices liked 3M’s Bair Hugger are very effective at maintaining or restoring normal body temperature in surgical patients, but critics say they pose serious hazards.
These devices work by forcing hot air through a hose into a special blanket that is draped over the patient. The waste air is not vented safely from the operating room, but instead rises into the ventilation airflow.
One of the most vocal critics of the Bair Hugger is its inventor, Dr. Scott Augustine. In 2010, he told the New York Times it should not be used because it can
In joint implant surgery, even minor bacterial contamination can be catastrophic. After knee replacement surgery, one patient named Rosie Bartel developed a methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection, had to have 11 surgeries, amputated part of her leg, and now must use a wheelchair.
“Hosing” and Hot Air Burns
The devices can also burn patients. In April 2012, the Korean Journal of Anesthesiology published a case report of a 37 year-old female who suffered a burn injury when the Bair Hugger was misused. The nozzle of the device was not connected and 43ºC hot air was blown directly on the patient for 30 minutes, a practice known as “hosing.”
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