Knee Surgery Infection Lawsuit Filed Over 3M Forced Air Warming Blanket

According to allegations raised in a product liability lawsuit brought by a Mississippi woman, a severe and debilitating knee surgery infection was caused by a 3M Bair Hugger forced air warming blanket commonly used during orthopedic joint replacements.

The complaint (PDF) was filed by Tracy Adams Crawford in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota this week, alleging that 3M Company and its Arizant Healthcare subsidiary manufacture a defective and unreasonably dangerous warming blanket for use during hip and knee replacements, known as a “Bair Hugger”.

Crawford indicates that a Bair Hugger forced air warming blanket was used to regulate her body temperature during a knee replacement in August 2011. However, the complaint alleges that the device caused bacteria and contaminants from the operating room floor to enter the surgical wound, causing a severe knee infection.

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Bair Hugger Lawsuits

Bair Hugger warming blankets may be the cause of knee or hip surgery infections.

Within days of the knee replacement, Crawford indicates that she began experiencing pain and discomfort. A little over a month later, her knee implant had to be removed and replaced with an antibiotic spacer due to a deep joint infection. Following months of intravenous antibiotic treatments, Crawford had to undergo yet another surgery to implant another articificial knee, and she has required several additional surgeries since.

The case is one of a growing number of knee surgery infection lawsuits and hip surgery infection lawsuits filed in recent months against 3M over the Bair Hugger warming blanket, each involving similar situations following joint replacement surgery, where patients suffered severe and debilitating injuries.

Last month, a motion was filed with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) seeking to consolidate all Bair Hugger infection lawsuits pending throughout the federal court system against 3M Corporation, indicating that centralized management before one judge is necessary to reduce duplicative discovery, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.

Forced Air Warming Blanket Infection Risks

The Bair Hugger warming blanket is commonly used during most orthopedic joint replacement procedures in hospitals throughout the U.S., providing forced air warming to help control body temperature during surgery. This is designed to reduce the risk of bleeding and improve outcomes. However, many patients indicate that they developed severe joint infections due to the design of the device.

According to allegations raised in the lawsuits, the forced air system disrupts the laminar flow of the operating room, allowing bacteria and other contaminants from the floor to enter the surgical site. Plaintiffs point to studies that indicate use of forced air warming blankets cause substantial increases in the number of contaminant particles in the air near a surgical wound and higher rates of knee or hip sepsis infections following joint replacement surgery.

There are more than 50,000 Bair Hugger warming blankets in hospitals nationwide, and the devices have been used on millions of patients. The lawsuits claim that the manufacturer has known about the hip and knee surgical infection risk for years, yet failed to make design changes or provide warnings to the medical community.

As hip and knee infection lawyers continue to review cases for individuals who have experienced problems following surgery where a Bair Hugger was used, it is ultimately expected that several hundred cases will be filed against 3M in courts throughout the country.

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