The Bair Hugger, a warming blanket, was developed by a US surgeon and approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the 1980s. The medical blanket is designed to be used during surgical procedures. With surgical theaters mostly kept to cooler temperatures, it was found that circulation is improved, there is less bleeding and healing is expedited following surgery if the patient is kept warm during the procedure. The warming blanket is heated with forced air, which arrives at the blanket by way of a hose connected to a heater located close to the floor. Adoption of the Bair Hugger was almost universal, with the device now being used in 90 percent of all surgical procedures in the US.
However, lately there have been concerns expressed that the Bair Hugger is not appropriate for use in some surgical procedures, such as invasive knee and hip replacement surgery, due to the possibility that pathogens such as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) picked up from the floor area by the air-circulation system inherent with the device, could be transferred to the surgical incision.
That’s alleged to have happened to one plaintiff having now filed a warming blanket lawsuit against Arizant Healthcare, Inc. - a wholly owned subsidiary of 3M Corporation (3M). The 3M Warming Blanket lawsuit is Schackmann v. 3M Company and Arizant Healthcare, Inc., case number 0:15-cv-03142-JNE-JSM, in the United States District Court, District of Minnesota.
Court documents suggest that during revision surgery for a hip implant, a serious MRSA infection was introduced to the patient and delivered through the sterile surgical site by the forced-air design of the Bair Hugger. The resulting infection is alleged to have caused serious injury to the plaintiff, who required a further six surgical procedures in fewer than 11 months in order to treat what proved to be a difficult and persistent deep-joint infection.
At one point, according to the Bair Hugger Warming Blanket lawsuit, the plaintiff’s artificial hip had to be completely removed in order for the infected area to be cleaned. Beyond the pain, suffering and inconvenience required to finally eradicate the infection, the plaintiff continues to suffer what the lawsuit describes as substantial, permanent physical impairment, including a lost capacity to move freely.
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“I am very proud of the old technology,” Dr. Augustine said on Christmas Eve in 2010, in comments published in the New York Times (12/24/10). “But I am also proud to spread the word that there is a problem.” Augustine notes a new device he helped develop warms a patient’s body much like an electric blanket, without the need for forced air. 3M Corporation acquired Arizant in 2010.