Attorney Assaad, with McDonald Worley law firm, says that most Bair Hugger lawsuits are filed by patients who underwent hip and knee replacements. “There has to be an additional surgery on the implant – key is some kind of surgical intervention,” says Assaad. “Just a superficial wound infection that cleared up with an antibiotic most likely will not qualify.”
About one percent of patients who have joint replacement surgery will develop an infection complication, according to the CDC. This life-threatening side effect is often treated with multiple surgeries.
PJI is one of the most dramatic complications after a total joint replacement with potential devastating long-term physical and psychological consequences, leading to significant impairment in the quality of life. In addition, it is associated with increased costs and burden to the healthcare system.
Assaad says that there will likely be additional surgery to occur after the patient is diagnosed with infection. “If they didn’t have additional surgery, most likely it wasn’t a joint infection.” Also, key is that most infections developed within a year after revision surgery. As to what kind of infection qualifies, Assaad says any prosthetic joint infection following a hip or knee implant surgery in which a Bair Hugger device was used intraoperatively.
Knee and Hip Replacements
Why focus on hip and knee replacements? Most patients don’t know that a Bair Hugger was used during their surgery, but chances are, it was used: More than four in every five U.S. hospitals use Bair Hugger blankets in an estimated 50,000 surgeries every day, and the device is used in approximately 80 percent of all implant procedures.
Another reason that most Bair Hugger complaints involve knee and hip replacements is that, “once you have the implant, there is no way your body can fight infection because there is no blood flow to that implant,” says Assaad. "We focus on hip and knee implants because the literature supports our cases.” There are many peer-reviewed articles supporting the science that the Bair Hugger creates convective currents that carry bacteria-laden particles from near the floor to the surgical site and that the Bair Hugger device harbors bacteria. As well as relying on relevant literature, experts also rely on their own independent experiments, numerous sources of evidence, and internal 3M documents to conclude that the Bair Hugger transmits particles and bacteria to the surgical site.
There are so many hip and knee surgeries performed that Assaad says more than 20,000 hip and knee replacement surgeries per year result in infection, and of those, less than five percent of patients file a Bair Hugger complaint.
Bair Hugger Litigation Update
Bair Hugger MDL litigation began in late 2015. Currently there are approximately five thousand cases in the multi-district litigation (MDL) filed against 3M claiming Bair Hugger systems spread infections during surgeries. “As well, we have a case in Texas state court and a few in Missouri,” says Assaad. “Only one case has been settled before trial. We had an unsuccessful mediation in the MDL and are in the process of continuing the MDL process and litigation.”
Assaad says that patients are still filing Bair Hugger complaints. “If you had additional surgery to remove or revise an implant because of an infection, such would warrant additional investigation into your case,” he says. And if you want to call the hospital to find out if a Bair Hugger was used, Assaad says do so by all means – but it isn’t straightforward. It isn’t easy to locate the correct record indicating Bair Hugger use. An experienced products liability attorney will order all your medical records and make it easier for you.
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About Attorney Gabriel Assaad
Since 2004, Gabriel has represented clients in personal injury, medical malpractice and product liability cases. Five years after a Mass Torts practice at Kennedy Hodges and one of the lead attorneys in the Bair Hugger litigation in Minnesota, Gabriel joined McDonald Worley in 2019 to expand his Mass Torts practice and to represent hundreds of victims as a result of corporate negligence. In addition, he has been appointed by the court to the Plaintiff Steering Committee in the Smith and Nephew Birmingham Resurfacing litigation and the 3M Combat Arms litigation.