New York Woman Files Lawsuit over Bair Hugger Surgical Warming Blanket

A New York woman is suing 3M over an infection allegedly caused by its Bair Hugger surgical warming blanket. According to the lawsuit, the Bair Hugger was used during her joint replacement surgery. She suffered a deep joint infection, allegedly due to the surgical blanket. During surgery, the use of anesthesia lowers a patient’s body temperature. In order to compensate for this, a device such as the Bair Hugger is used to maintain a safe body temperature.

The lawsuit alleges that the design of the Bair Hugger makes patients susceptible to serious infections. The device uses a forced-air design; the blanket is connected to a portable heater that blows warm air. Maintaining a patient’s body temperature helps reduce the risk of bleeding and shortens recovery time. According to the lawsuit, the forced-air design picks up contaminants and deposits them into the surgical site. Allegedly, this can lead to deep joint infections. The lawsuit alleges that 3M is aware of these risks but failed to inform patients or surgeons.

The plaintiff is seeking compensation for failure to warn and multiple counts of negligence. The suit is joining others as part of a multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota.

An MDL is when many lawsuits with similar allegations are brought together in one court before one judge. Consolidating similar lawsuits in this manner eliminates duplicate discovery and makes complex litigation more efficient. In the Bair Hugger MDL, plaintiffs similarly allege that the use of a Bair Hugger led to a serious infection. Most patients underwent a knee or hip replacement surgery.

The plaintiff cites a 2013 study published in the Bone & Joint Journal showing that a forced-air warming device is associated with an increased number of airborne particles in the surgical site. The study did not determine that these particles included bacteria.

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