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Federal Bair Hugger Lawsuits Climbing, Now Number 1105 in MDL

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Minneapolis, MNIt’s little wonder the Bair Hugger lawsuit ledger continues to grow and swell, given the number of patients for whom the forced-air warming system has been utilized over the past 25 years: some 200 million procedures have used the system, originally designed and deployed to keep the patient warm and prevent hypothermia, amongst other advantages. However, Bair Hugger deep joint infection has become a serious issue for an increasing number of patients, many of whom have filed a warming blanket lawsuit.

Court records suggest that in the 30 days between December 15, 2016 and January 15 of this year an additional 166 Bair Hugger lawsuits have landed in Bair Hugger multidistrict litigation: representing newly-filed lawsuits, or pre-existing lawsuits newly-transferred to the MDL – or any combination thereof. As of January 15, there were 1,105 cases pending (In Re: Bair Hugger Forced Air Warming Products Liability Litigation – MDL No. 2666, US District Court, District of Minnesota).

The Bair Hugger warming blanket system was originally developed and marketed by Arizant Healthcare Inc., before the latter and its products were acquired by 3M. Now, 3M is facing many a 3M warming blanket lawsuit alleging the Bair Hugger system upsets the carefully-controlled flow of sterile, germ-free air within the operating theatre designed to enshroud the patient area and, specifically, the surgical wound.

The original idea behind the Bair Hugger was laudable with regard to the prevention of hypothermia – especially over the course of long procedures in a room that is customarily kept at lower temperatures in an effort to stem migration of bacteria and promote alertness amongst surgeons and support staff.

Plaintiffs, however, allege the design is flawed and promotes Bair Hugger deep joint infection. A disposable warming blanket draped over the patient is connected via flexible hose to an electrical unit that gently transfers warmed, ambient air through the hose to the warming blanket. Plaintiffs assert bacteria and pathogens that reside at the floor level and normally well away from the surgical site are potentially transferred to the surgical site via the Bair Hugger system by altering the air flow in the room. To that end, it is further asserted the Bair Hugger system negatively impacts the controlled airflow that normally helps reduce infection in the operating theatre, by drawing up from the floor potentially infectious pathogens towards the surgical site.

Various Bair Hugger deep joint lawsuits assert that hip, and knee replacement procedures are particularly susceptible to complications stemming from infection. At least two Bair Hugger plaintiffs assert the loss of a leg through amputation, a response asserted to be a direct result of a deep joint infection fostered by the use of the Bair Hugger warming blanket, or so it is alleged.

There may be in excess of 1105 cases in total, as the MDL only houses those lawsuits filed in federal court.

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