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The Battle over Bair Hugger Is a Hot One

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Houston, TXAttorney David Hodges is just back from a trip to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where a total of 170 Bair Hugger Forced Air Warming (FAW) Blanket personal injury cases have been consolidated into a multidistrict litigation (MDL). Hodges will be among the 21 members of the legal leadership in a lawsuit against The 3M Company and Arizant Healthcare, the owners of the product.

In 2013, Hodges from the Houston, Texas firm of Kennedy Hodges, L.L.P. filed the first lawsuit against The 3M Company and Arizant Healthcare on behalf of Tommy Walton. The 70-year-old Walton had developed a deep joint infection after routine hip replacement surgery.

A year later, Hodges filed the second suit on behalf of Timothy Johnson who also developed a life-threatening infection following a knee replacement and “continues to suffer to this day,” according to the complaint filed with the court.

“The injuries tend to be pretty serious,” says Hodges.
“We use the term periprosthetic joint infection because we are talking here about an infection that occurs around a prosthetic joint that has been implanted.

“So we had Texas and Kansas cases going on for a while and we developed some pretty good theories of liability against 3M, and other attorneys across the country started taking notice and taking on cases,” notes Hodges.

Concerns about the FAW Blanket and the spread of infection during orthopedic surgeries like hip and knee operations go back at least 10 years.

The first concerns came, remarkably, from the doctor who invented the product, Scott Augustine MD. “I contacted 3M Company and said ‘you have a problem here.’ I created your problem but you own the product now and I think you need to do something about this,” says Augustine.

The blankets are draped over the patients and blow warm air over them to keep them from slipping into hypothermia during surgery. The concern is that heat forced up from the floor combines with contaminants and then creates a heat chimney full of germs that can contaminate the surgical area.

The body’s immune system can handle literally millions of germs that come into contact with soft tissue incisions. But surgical fields during implant procedures must be 100 percent germ free. So, while the Bair Hugger is considered safe for most “soft tissue” surgeries, the same is in question when it comes to replacing knees or hips.

“The 3M Company will say that the Bair Hugger FAW has been tested in breast, hernia and colorectal cases. Those are all soft tissue infections where you need millions of bacteria to overcome the body’s defenses to cause an infection - in this case we are talking about, as little as ONE bacterium can lead to an infection when it lands on a prosthetic joint during the implantation process,” says attorney Hodges.

Dr. Augustine has invented another patient warming device known as the HotDog that does not recycle warm air and does not, he argues, present the same potential for infection. The 3M Company and Arizant deny there is a problem with Bair Hugger.

“There is a growing amount of research that supports my criticism of the Bair Hugger warming blanket,” says Dr. Augustine. “Meanwhile, the 3M Company continues to say there is no problem and throw crap at me and my company. It’s all just a smoke screen.”


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Posted by

My husband and I are in Magnolia Texas. In Oct. 2015 my husband had ankle replacement surgery in Houston Tx. The doctor caused a large pressure wound on the bottom of my husband's foot after not removing a foot pad on the ex-fix device before leaving out of town and leaving another doctor in his place. This doctor left to cover for him was a young foot doctor and ignored his complaint of pain saying it was normal and never unwrapping his foot to look. His surgery was a disaster from the start. It was suppose to be a 4-6 hour surgery with about a 4-6 month time recovery time. He ended up after a 11hr surgery and in the hospital for 5 days when it was suppose to be a day surgery with a larger wound on the bottom of his foot. The next thing that starts happening pretty much right away is the incision started looking bad and two holes opened on the top and by February 2016 4 months after the surgery with staph in all three wounds and puss around the bone. He spent 7wks in Kindred Hospital on Iv antibiotics, did HBO therapy and had a wound vac over all 3 wounds. He was released and on antibiotics by mouth until Oct. when the infectious disease doctor put him back on IV antibiotics because after 30 skin grafts to the top of the foot one wound that goes straight to the bone hasn't healed. It took about 7 months or so for one of the top wounds to heal and over a year for the bottom to heal. He now has one hole open still to the bone right above the implant. In Nov 2016 they did a bone biopsy and found the infection is now in the bone. The infectious diseases doctor said its probable the implant will have to come out and its infected. I reviewed the hospital records and see the Bair hugger warming system was used on him. Would you consider trying an ankle implant case regarding this system and infection? I also can't help but wonder if we have a case with the maker of the external fixation device used as being defective for causing the injury on the bottom of the foot? Please let me know if you can help

Posted by

I had a scope on right knee to remove scar tissue at Methodist Sugar Land in March of 1015 and got MRSA. Stayed in hospital far too long. Went to next doctor to have knee removed and concrete spacer put in for four months, then another knee put in and now the glue is not holding. The knee will have to be removed once again. Way more issues than what I have listed. Need to speak to my wife it has almost killed her.


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