According to some estimates, more than 100 million procedures have used Bair Huggers in the operating room, most of which are hip and knee replacement surgeries. The Star Tribune (Nov. 2015) doubles that number, reporting the blanket has been used in 200 million surgeries since 1987.
Hospital infections are rampant, but not until recently were infections believed to occur in the supposedly sterile operating room. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that 719,000 total knee replacements and 332,000 total hip replacements were performed in 2014. Knee replacement procedures take at least two hours, and hip replacement surgery from 4-6 hours, if all goes well. The body loses heat increasingly during surgery so it is important to keep the patient warm - with a warming blanket.
The Bair Hugger device is facing allegations that it may be the cause of contamination leading to infection during such surgery.
Carolyn doesn’t know if she had the Bair Hugger blanket - she is in the process of getting her medical records from the hospital. Given the amount of hip and knee replacement surgeries performed, and having acquired three infections after three knee replacement revision surgeries, Carolyn is pretty sure the Bair Hugger was used at least once.
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“I had my first partial knee replacement surgery in 2011. I went home in severe pain, and I was back in ER just a few days later,” says Carolyn.“After determining that I had a nasty infection, they readmitted me and immediately hooked me up to an IV with antibiotics. They cleaned out the infection, took out the partial knee device and put in a spacer. I went home with PIC lines and six weeks of antibiotic therapy.”
After the antibiotic therapy Carolyn had more blood work. She had another infection (or perhaps the same infection) so it was back to the hospital for another surgery. “That knee replacement worked, but less than a year later, it became loose and I had yet another replacement surgery,” she explains. “By that time I was so frustrated; I went to a different doctor and different hospital - they said I had an infection, so the third replacement came out, a spacer went in and I had another six weeks of antibiotics.”
With Carolyn’s fourth knee replacement, she is now totally disabled, and she will likely be on disability benefits for the rest of her life.