In December 2010, the New York Times reported that the inventor of the Bair Hugger, Dr. Scott D. Augustine, said the forced-air warming blanket (FAW) could actually pose a danger to patients receiving implants such as hip and knee replacements. He said the forced air could spread bacteria that can lead to hospital-acquired infections such as sepsis and MRSA. That was five years ago!
Twenty years ago the Minnesota anesthesiologist had the idea of keeping patients warm during surgery - it helps anesthetized patients regulate their body temperature and prevent hypothermia - so there would be less bleeding and faster recovery time. The Bair Hugger, which is basically a blanket connected to a portable heater/blower by a flexible hose that blows warm air on a patient’s skin, was approved by the FDA in 1998.
About two years after Dr. Augustine asked hospitals to stop using the device during certain surgeries, the Bone & Joint Journal sided with the doctor. Researchers found that air circulating over the surgical wound in the forced-air warmer contains 2,000 times more contaminants than alternative systems. Apparently the Bair Hugger can suck up air that may contain bacteria on the operating room floor and recirculate the contaminated air to a medical device such as a hip replacement or artificial heart valve.
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More than 50,000 Bair Hugger units in 2013 were in use in the US and Bair Hugger is used in almost all total joint replacement surgeries.
Meanwhile, Dr Augustine, who made a fortune with the Bair Hugger, is now touting the benefits of his HotDog patient warming device. The system, which is air-free, operates differently from FAW and claims to be “a safe and effective alternative.”