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The Bair Hugger Is Anything but a Warm Hug

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Topeka, KSWe are just a few weeks away from the date during which the next set of arguments are to be heard regarding the consolidation of Bair Hugger lawsuits in the District of Minnesota. Plaintiffs are hoping to consolidate a collection of lawsuits before the Honorable Donovan W. Frank. Arguments with regard to In Re: Bair Hugger Forced Air Warming Products Liability Litigation; MDL No. 2666; Case MN/0:15-cv-03328 and filed September 15 are scheduled for December 3, just a couple of weeks from now.

It’s an interesting file. The Bair Hugger is a warming blanket used during surgery to keep a patient warm during an extended surgical procedure. Sterile operating theaters are usually kept cool in order to help surgeons, nurses and attending technicians remain alert, and to help reduce the chance for infection. Warming blankets have been found to have a positive impact on healing by keeping the patient warm, as opposed to having the patient too cool, for too long.

An external heater located at the floor generates airflow that travels up an enclosed connection to the blanket for delivering warm air to the patient. The problem, or so it is alleged, is where that warm air originates - from the floor - and the various pathogens that can be found at the floor level, normally well away from the surgical site.

The allegation is that the heater allows for these pathogens to reach the sterile surgical site, resulting in the potential for severe infection. This can be especially problematic for orthopedic procedures, where infection can be introduced deep into the joint.

Various lawsuits have alleged an infection - sometimes emerging as long as a year after surgery - has had serious implications on a patient’s health. Plaintiffs have alleged in a Bair Hugger deep joint infection lawsuit that an infection claimed to have originated by use of a FAW system, has resulted in serious health consequences, including additional surgery to have an infected joint cleaned. In one case, a plaintiff’s infection was so severe that amputation was necessary.

The inventor of the Bair Hugger - who is now promoting a warming blanket that does not use forced air - claimed in a New York Times article that the Bair Hugger is a risk to patients. The company that now owns the Bair Hugger, 3M Company/Arizant Healthcare, Inc., disagrees. Many a 3M Warming Blanket lawsuit alleges that 3M has advised regulators that the Bair Hugger meets the High Efficiency Particulate Air Standard (HEPA). Plaintiffs allege this is not the case.

It has been suggested that the Bair Hugger is in wide use, with some 50,000 units in active service in hospitals across the nation. While the blankets themselves are disposable and used only once for each individual patient, the heater and forced-air system is reusable.

Most recently, a Bair Hugger Warming Blanket lawsuit has been filed in US District Court for the Eastern District of Kansas. The plaintiff is Timothy Johnson, who alleges various injuries associated with the use of the Bair Hugger warming blanket. The case is Timothy Johnson, Plaintiff, v. 3M Company and Arizant Healthcare, Inc., Case No. 14-cv-2044-KHV-TJJ.
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