William L. filed suit against 3M and Arizant Healthcare, Inc. claiming that their Bair Hugger caused him to develop an infection requiring additional surgeries and leaving him with permanent injuries. A patient warmer, the Bair Hugger blows hot air right onto the patient’s exposed skin during surgery.
No the man was not attacked by PETA and yes it is spelled correctly. The Bair Hugger in question is a medical device used to keep patients warm during surgery. Such a device was used in William L.’s surgery leading to the Michigan man injured by Bair Hugger suit.
The plaintiff is suing 3M and Arizant Healthcare, Inc. alleging that their device, the Bair Hugger, is the cause of his severe and permanent personal injuries. William had a left hip replacement surgery in August 2012. The OR team used the Bair Hugger to keep him warm during surgery, but he claims that the device exposed his open surgical wound to contaminants causing infection.
William had to endure three additional surgeries due to the infection allegedly caused by the Bair Hugger. The surgeries were done to remove the hip implant and the infected & dead tissue in his leg. William’s suit states:
“Ultimately, the majority of Plaintiff’s thigh muscle was removed as a result of the infection. Plaintiff continues to suffer substantial damages, including but not limited to impaired mobility, making the simple movement of walking a challenge.”
William is suing for compensatory & punitive damages, attorney’s fees and other relief the court may grant.
Some background on the Bair Hugger makes one wonder why anyone thought this device was a good idea. Sure, patients’ body temperature must be maintained comfortably during surgery, as well as in the recovery room. There has to be a better solution than this, though.
The Bair Hugger is essentially a portable heater/blower attached to a disposable blanket by a flexible hose. It’s typically draped over or under patients, warming them by blowing hot air right onto the patients’ exposed skin. Say what?
According to the suit:
“The hot air produced by Bair Hugger accumulates under the surgical drape covering the patient and escapes from under the surgical drape below the level of the surgical table or at the head end of the surgical table. This escaped air creates airflow currents that flow against the downward airflow of the operating room. As this warmed air rises, it deposits bacteria from the floor of the surgical room into the surgical site”
To make matters worse, the suit claims that Bair Huggers made from 2002 to 2009 were even more dangerous as 3M & Arizant lowered the efficiency level of the devices’ filtration system. This reduction made the Bair Hugger less safe by allowing pathogens to be blown over the patients’ exposed skin. William’s suit claims this design defect is the cause of his injuries.
At what point (this is a rhetorical question) did someone think, “Gee! Wouldn’t it be a great idea to have a patient warmer that blew hot air directly onto the patients’ bare skin?” Seriously?
Hot or not, air blowing onto a surgical patient’s exposed skin is a tremendously bad idea! Unless one is operating in a vacuum, there is no such thing as a totally sterile environment. Sorry to disillusion anyone, but even the local OR has some germs, typically on the floor.
Never mind the idiotic reduction in filtration between 2002 and 2009! Perfect filtration in such a device is a virtual impossibility. Unless the heater/blower is undergoing detailed interior cleaning and disinfection protocols, there are some germs hanging out in there. Even without the MacGyver-level parts about establishing air currents, this sounds like a roadmap to disaster. It seems to have been for William L.
There are currently 50K Bair Huggers in use around the U.S.
Stay healthy, my friends.