Arguments will be heard in the District of Minnesota as to whether lawsuits involving the Bair Hugger Forced Air Warming Blanket will be consolidated. Sterile operating rooms are usually kept cool in order to help surgeons, nurses, and attending technicians remain alert, and also reduce the chance for infection. The Bair Hugger is a warming blanket thought to have a positive impact on healing by keeping a patient warm during an extended surgical procedure and reduce the risk of infections. It is heated with forced air, which travels up a hose connected to an external heater located at the floor. Though, according to various lawsuits, the Bair Hugger may actually be causing infections.
The allegation is that pathogens such as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) are picked up from the floor by the heater and transferred to the sterile surgical site, resulting in the potential for severe infection. This is especially problematic for orthopedic procedures, where infection can be introduced deep into the joint.
Various plaintiffs have alleged an infection claimed to have originated with the blanket, resulting in serious health consequences, including additional surgery. In one case, a woman who went in for a routine knee replacement claims she left with a MRSA infection that resulted in 27 additional surgeries and eventually cost her her right leg, amputated just below the hip. Dr. Scott Augustine, the co-inventor of the Bair Hugger – who is now promoting a warming blanket that does not use forced air – claims the Bair Hugger is a risk to patients. The company that now owns the Bair Hugger, 3M Company/Arizant Healthcare, Inc., disagrees.