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An Alabama man has filed a product liability lawsuit over a hip infection suffered following joint replacement surgery, indicating that a Bair Hugger forced air warming blanket caused contaminants to enter the surgical site.
The complaint (PDF) was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama on August 3, by James Rhoton and his wife, Sarah.
Rhoton indicates that he contracted a Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection following hip replacement surgery in 2013, where a Bair Hugger was used by the anesthesiologist to help control his body temperature. However, the lawsuit alleges that the design of the forced air warmer caused particles from the operating room floor to enter the sterile field during the procedure.
The case joins a growing number of hip infection lawsuits and knee infection lawsuits filed in recent weeks against 3M Company and Arizant Healthcare, alleging that the Bair Hugger warming device increases the risk of MRSA, sepsis and other infections.
As a result of the hip surgery infection, Rhoton indicates that he had to undergo revision surgery to have the implant removed and have the infected area cleaned out less than eight months after the artificial hip was implanted. He indicates that he has been left with impaired mobility and permanent injuries due to the Bair Hugger infection.
Hip Replacement Infection Risks
The 3M Bair Hugger is commonly used during many hip and knee joint replacement procedures throughout the U.S., with more than 50,000 devices in use at hospitals nationwide.
The forced air warming blanket is designed to blow hot air onto the patients body during surgery. However, lawsuits allege that the design disrupts the laminar air flow in operating rooms, allowing particles from the floor to be carried up in the warm area, entering the sterile filed around the surgical site.
Given the widespread use of Bair Hugger warming blankets, many knee and hip infection lawyers expect that hundreds, if not thousands, of similar lawsuits may be filed in the coming months and years.
3M acquired Arizant Healthcare in Fall 2010 for about $810 million. Plaintiffs allege that the manufacturer has withheld important information from the medical community about the risk of infections. While the manufacturers have maintained that a tape barrier is supposed to prevent air from migrating onto the surgical site, plaintiffs maintain that such statements are false.
“A number of Bair Hugger blankets marketed as safe for use in surgeries do not utilize a taped edge at all. Instead, those blankets blow contaminated air directly toward the surgical field,” the lawsuit filed by Rhoton states. “Also, the statement that the taped barrier would contain the contaminated air is false because it ignores the fact that the heated air from the Bair Hugger rises against the general downward airflow of the operating theatre. The presence of a tape edge does nothing to prevent the Bair Hugger from facilitating the movement of pathogens from the floor of the operating room to the surgical site.”
Rhoton is pursuing claims for designing and manufacturing a defective medical device, seeking damages under Alabama’s Extended Manufacturer’s Liability Doctrine, negligence and wantonness, breach of warranty, negligent misrepresentation, fraudulent misrepresentation, fraudulent concealment, fraudulent inducement and suppression. His wife is suing for loss of consortium.