Queller, Fisher, Washor, Fuchs & Kool, L.L.P.

Bair Hugger

Use of the Bair Hugger warming system, particularly during knee and hip replacement surgeries, may significantly increase the risk of patients developing serious and painful deep joint infections. There have been reported incidences of infection from knee replacement surgery as well as infection from hip replacement surgeries linked to the use of the Bair Hugger warming system. This has led to litigation as a direct result of the use of this device.

The Bair Hugger is used in the majority of U.S. hospitals to keep patients warm during surgery with the goal of reducing bleeding and speeding up patient recovery times. The device works like a forced air-heater, carrying warmed air through a hose to a blanket covering the patient. However, the forced air can carry infection-causing bacteria from the operating room floor into the patient's open surgical site. The result is that patients may contract deep joint infections such as sepsis and Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA).

The signs and symptoms of an infected joint replacement include:

  • Increased pain or stiffness in the joint
  • Swelling
  • Warmth and redness surrounding the wound
  • Wound drainage
  • Fever and chills
  • Fatigue

Joint infections generally present shortly after knee or hip replacement surgery, complicating the patient’s recovery and requiring a prolonged hospital stay. However, sometimes the bacteria can enter deep joints and the infection may not present for an extended period of time after the surgery.

While many patients that undergo implant surgery may not know if the Bair Hugger system was used, our attorneys are able to investigate whether the device was used and if it may have contributed to a deep joint infection. If you or someone you love has suffered a deep joint infection or another injury or illness after knee or hip replacement surgery, our New York lawyers are here to help. For a free, no-obligation consultation to help determine your legal options, call 212.406.1700 or contact us online.

Even the inventor of the Bair-Hugger, Dr. Scott D. Augustine, now acknowledges the risks associated with the system. The New York Times reported on December 24, 2010 that Dr. Augustine "wants hospitals to stop using the device during certain operations, asserting that it poses a danger to patients." "Dr. Augustine asserts that his invention is a danger to surgical patients receiving implant devices like artificial heart valves and joints. The forced air, he says, can spread bacteria associated with hospital-acquired infections."

While Dr. Augustine has since invented an alternative surgical warming device called the HotDog, published studies have supported his concerns. A study published in the American Journal of Infection Control in November 2010 found that forced-air warming filters, the kind used in the Bair Hugger system, are inadequate to prevent airborne contamination emissions or protect the internal air path from microbial contamination buildup. In a study published in the Bone and Joint Journal in November 2011 researchers found that the Bair Hugger created a "significant increased risk for deep-joint infection" compared with patients who used an alternative warming device and recommended using air-free warming for orthopedic surgeries.. As explained by Dr. Augustine, the second study published by the same journal in February 2013 demonstrated that the device generates waste heat under the operating table and creates “tornado-like vortexes” that “sucked contaminated air from the operating room floor and deposited it over the surgical wound.” The Bair-Hugger system is distributed by Azirant Healthcare, now a subsidiary of 3M, a multi-billion dollar company. "We studied this extensively for about 18 months. I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that the waste heat rises every single time. This was reported before 3M even bought the company [Azirant]" Augustine said.

Treatment for artificial joint infections can be incredibly difficult because when bacteria are deposited on the joint’s surface it produces a biofilm. This biofilm can make the surgical site and infection resistant to antibodies and to antibiotics. Treatment for resulting infections may include:

  • Joint implant removal and revision
  • Additional revision surgeries and prolonged hospitalizations
  • Insertion of antibiotic spacers in the infected joint
  • IV antibiotic therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Amputation of the affected limb

Recently, over 100 lawsuits have been filed against 3M and Arizant Healthcare on behalf of plaintiffs for complications resulting from the use of Bair Hugger during knee and hip replacement surgeries. The cases have been consolidated into multi-district litigation (MDL) in Minnesota. The next conference is scheduled for March 24, 2016. The plaintiffs allege that 3M and Arizant Healthcare were aware of Bair Hugger's defects which deposited bacteria onto surgical sites and yet failed to warn doctors and patients about the risks associated with the use of the device.

Bair Hugger lawsuits are not part of a class action. Each person who sustained an injury will be entitled to their own individual claim. If there is a settlement, each individual will receive compensation based on their own specific case. Attorney fees awarded by the court generally range from 20-40% of the amount recovered, an amount that can vary depending upon any particular settlement. Our law firm and/or law firms we work with pay all expenses and costs of litigating and will obtain a legal fee if you are awarded money as a result of a settlement or verdict. If and when liability is established, there already appear to be a number of individual Bair Hugger claims that are worth in excess of $1 million dollars in damages.

Every state places a time restriction on how long an injured patient can file a lawsuit. These time restrictions are known as a statute of limitations. If the statute of limitations expires before a victim files a claim, they may permanently lose their opportunity to recover compensation for the pain and suffering they were forced to endure. In New York, the statute of limitations for filing an injury claim is generally 3 years. Our firm is also evaluating cases nationwide, as long as the statute of limitations for bringing a case has not expired in your particular state. If you or someone you love has suffered a deep joint infection or another injury or illness after knee or hip replacement surgery, contact our attorneys as soon as possible to determine your legal rights call 212.406.1700 or contact us online.

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