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Knee Replacement Patient Almost Loses Leg, Blames Bair Hugger Blanket

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Oklahoma City, OKAfter undergoing four surgeries in an attempt to treat a deep infection after knee replacement surgery, Robert’s orthopedic surgeon referred him to an infectious diseases specialist. “The specialist said that something had to attach itself to the prosthesis or area during surgery,” says Robert, “and I think the Bair Hugger warming blanket is the culprit.”

Medicare might also be pointing its finger at the Bair Hugger. After his third surgery, Robert got a letter from Medicare’s Loss Prevention Center, saying they were interested in any third-party settlements. “They want to get paid for all these surgeries, which has cost them about half a million dollars,” Robert says. “They even mentioned my orthopedic surgeon’s name and his associates, so something is up.” But Robert doesn’t blame his surgeon - far from it.

Infection set in about two weeks after Robert received a knee replacement. His surgeon went back in and attempted to clean out the infection, but six weeks of antibiotics later, he was back in the hospital again. This time, his prosthesis was removed and replaced with a cement spacer loaded with antibiotics. At this point, the surgeon said that he might lose the leg.

“After my surgeon said they can only do so many surgeries, I Googled “post-op knee surgery infection” and the Bair Hugger blanket popped up. It was the first time I’d heard about this blanket but how else could I have gotten a deep bone marrow infection that I didn’t have before going into that operating room” Robert had to undergo a fourth surgery two months later.

Robert trusts his surgeon, especially after he referred Robert to the Infectious Disease Specialist.
“I got the impression - after my leg was infected - that the doctors and hospital staff were circling the wagons,” Robert says, laughing.
“They quit communicating with me. I believe my surgeon did his job, after all I let him perform three more surgeries on me.

“I don’t think the doctors have much choice regarding what medical devices they can and cannot use. They work for a conglomeration and the hospital administration tells them what to do. The hospital where I had my surgeries sold themselves to an outfit that owns thousands of other hospitals nationwide, and I think the quality of care has gone downhill.”

As for the prosthesis not being sterile, Robert says the Stryker knee replacement didn’t fail him mechanically, and he now has a second Stryker knee. Next up Robert or his attorney has to get his medical reports from the hospital and see if in fact the Bair Hugger was used.

“I’ve been out of the hospital for six weeks and it’s looking okay now. I got over the rough stuff but it’s been a terrible ride,” Robert adds. A “terrible ride” is putting his ordeal mildly. Robert, 58 years old, has been on crutches for months. He had a knee replacement so that he could get back to work in the oil field - that didn’t work out. Like many people, Robert didn’t have any savings, so being out of work for so long was a terrible financial burden - he couldn’t pay the mortgage and lost his house. And car. Now he gets $1,066 per month from Medicare, which doesn’t even cover the rent.

But always the optimist, Robert says he’s on the upside now. “I hope to look for work in a few more weeks or so. I’m just happy to have both my legs,” he quips. “But it’s not over yet because I filed a complaint and my attorney is helping me get my post-op reports. That hospital probably thought I would just go away, or pass away.”

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