Bair Hugger is a medical device used during surgery to keep patients warm. Hypothermia is a very real concern for surgical patients, and warming devices can make surgery safer, but the Bair Hugger device can also cause infections during surgeries to place implants such as hip and knee replacements and artificial heart valves, because it uses forced air.
Why Bair Hugger is Used
Under general anesthesia the human body cannot regulate its temperature. Core body temperature can decrease rapidly, causing hypothermia which can lead to complications including infections after surgery. Bair Hugger therapy is an entire line of products created to keep patients warm during surgery using forced air. When it was released in 1987, Bair Hugger was the world’s first forced air warming (FAW) system.
Bair Hugger was invented by Dr. Scott D. Augustine. Now Dr. Augustine warns that the FAW should not be used in device implant surgeries because it can spread bacteria causing hospital-acquired infection.
The Problem with Bair Hugger Therapy
Bair Hugger therapy works by forcing hot air into a special blanket that is draped over the patient. The blankets are disposable, so they do not pose a risk of transferring germs from one patient to the next. The problem is with the forced air itself. The air is filtered before it is circulated, but when the hot waste air is expelled it can disturb and dispel contaminants from the floor of the operating room.
A study published in the Bone and Joint Journal, in 2013, found that convection currents created by forced air warming increased the particle concentration 1,000-fold at the surgical site. It should be noted that this study acknowledges that these particles may not carry bacteria.
Bair Hugger Victim Required 15 Revision Surgeries
The first lawsuit by a Bair Hugger victim was filed in 2013 against 3M, Arizant, and a sales representative for the companies. Tommy Walton had hip replacement surgery in 2011. According to his complaint, he developed a deep joint infection as a result of Bair Hugger therapy used during his surgery. He was forced to undergo 15 revision surgeries, including removal of the artificial hip.