Over 1,000 people across the country have filed suit against 3M, claiming the company’s Bair Hugger blanket has caused them serious harm. Victims say the blanket, which uses a forced air stream to warm the body before orthopedic surgery, circulates contaminants, potentially leading to serious infections in the deep joints.
3M has made huge profits off their Bair Hugger blankets, some of which sell for over $100 apiece,1 all while ignoring the very real risk of infection. By failing to warn doctors and surgical patients about the possible complications and by refusing to redesign their blanket to mitigate concerns, the company has put corporate profits ahead of patient safety.
Surgeons use Bair Hugger warming blankets to regulate and stabilize a patient’s body temperature before he or she undergoes a procedure. By helping the body maintain a normal temperature throughout an operation, the blankets are supposed to improve outcomes and reduce complications.
In particular, doctors use them before hip and knee replacement surgery to prevent a patient’s core body temperature from dropping to dangerous levels, which often happens when they go under anesthesia for long periods of time. Since hypothermia can raise the risks of morbidity and mortality, pre-warming has become common practice in the nation’s hospitals.
Unlike your average electric blanket, the Bair Hugger blankets ward off hypothermia through a forced air stream. Since 1987, when the blankets first received approval from the FDA,2 doctors have used them in more than 200 million surgeries.1
Originally developed by Arizant Healthcare, Inc., the blankets are now manufactured by the 3M company, which acquired Arizant back in 2010. Today, four out of every five hospitals use the warming blanket during joint replacement surgery, particularly during knee and hip replacement procedures.
The Bair Hugger blankets serve their intended purpose—to normalize body temperature—but, in the process of heating a patient, they also create unintended side effects. By circulating warm air around the body and under the operating table, they may spread airborne contaminants to the surgical area.
As soon as a surgeon begins to operate, germs and bacteria can enter the open incision, which puts patients at an increased risk for infection. In the case of knee implant or hip implant surgery, the spread of contaminants can cause serious, post-operative deep joint infections.
Eliminating such deeply embedded infections often requires not only antibiotics but also multiple surgeries. In extreme cases, amputation or even death could result from an infection. Even relatively mild cases can cause long-term pain and discomfort, thereby reducing the quality of life for decades, if not permanently.
People who develop a post-surgical infection caused by a Bair Hugger blanket may experience any of the following symptoms:
Depending on the severity of the infection, patients may have to undergo the following treatments:
Patients who suffer from the preventable effects of deep joint infections frequently turn to the court system for redress. They and their attorneys say that 3M, the manufacturer of the Bair Hugger blankets, failed to adequately warn the public of the risks associated with their product.
Every day, new cases of Bair Hugger-related infections come to light. As time passes, a growing number of victims reach out to personal injury attorneys for advice and representation. Over the years, as more surgical patients became aware of the flaws inherent in these medical devices, dozens of lawsuits turned into hundreds. Now there are over 1,000 cases pending before the court.
At the end of the day, filing a lawsuit is the only way to hold medical manufacturers accountable for the devastation caused by defective and mislabeled products like the Bair Hugger blanket. In addition to seeking redress, people who have been harmed by defective medical products deserve compensation for their pain, suffering, and medical expenses. At the very least, a monetary award can help them pay the bills that pile up after multiple corrective surgeries and rounds of antibiotics.
The manufacturer of the Bair Hugger blanket, 3M, continues to stand by the safety of its products. In spite of evidence to the contrary, the company claims that the forced air blankets do not lead to a higher incident of infection, and, therefore, cannot take the blame for any unfavorable surgical outcome.
Instead, attorneys for 3M argue that the lawsuits are without merit. They’ve even gone so far as to accuse victims’ lawyers of building a case on “bad science.” This is in spite of the fact that the inventor of the Bair Hugger blankets, an anesthesiologist named Dr. Scott D. Augustine, has admitted that the product increases the risk of infection in patients undergoing orthopedic surgery.
Since 3M has failed to change its practices or admit wrongdoing, litigation has become necessary in order to balance the scales of justice and secure victims the compensation they need to move forward with their lives.
In 2015, the courts consolidated the lawsuits in the U.S. District Court in Minnesota for the purposes of multidistrict litigation. Judge Joan N. Ericksen and Magistrate Judge Franklin L. Noel will oversee the process.3 The first bellwether trials are set to begin in February of 2018, after which time victims and their lawyers will get a better sense of the potential outcome of pending cases.
If you’ve developed an infection after a Bair Hugger blanket was used to warm your body before orthopedic surgery, then you may be able to sue 3M for damages related to your injuries. The first step is to contact an experienced attorney, who can evaluate the specific facts of your case and help you determine the proper course of action.
Need legal advice? Call Saunders & Walker, P.A. at 1-800-748-7115 or send us a message in order to get a free consultation from our experienced personal injury and consumer justice attorneys.