According to a Multi-District Litigation (MDL) Update released on January 17th, the number of 3M Bair Hugger injury claims has increased from 939 in December 15, 2016, to 1,105.
The Bair Hugger surgical blanket, originally manufactured by Arizant Healthcare Inc. nearly 25 years ago and now owned by 3M, was designed to warm a patient during surgery and prevent hypothermia. However, the plaintiffs argue that its design also caused deep-joint infections that have even resulted in amputations in several patients. This type of infection, referred to as Healthcare Associated Infections (HAI) is a leading source of healthcare-related deaths in the United States, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and account for 99,000 deaths a year.
The MDL for Bair Hugger is currently undergoing pretrial coordination in the US District Court in Minneapolis. Some experts anticipate that the number of lawsuits will continue to mount, considering the Bair Hugger blanket has been in use for over two decades.
Alleged Design Flaws of the Bair Hugger Blanket
Inside of a hospital operating room, the temperature is lowered to about 66 degrees fahrenheit to curtail the growth of bacteria, control humidity, and to keep surgeons and assistants alert. The Bair Hugger blanket served as a disposable heated blanket to cover the surgical wound that would circulate heated are gently over the patient.
However, plaintiffs allege that the system would also circulate unsterilized air from the floor of the operating room, that would otherwise not be likely to reach the operating area. Plaintiffs allege that this would expose the patient to pathogens and germs that could cause long-lasting health complications to the patient and greatly increase the risk of infection. The specific infections that patients allegedly contracted as a result of the use of the Bair Hugger blanket have even been coined as “Bair Hugger deep joint infections” and are acutely associated with hip and knee replacement surgeries.
The Bair Hugger warming blanket has been in use of over 200 million surgeries. Plaintiffs involved in the Bair Hugger multi-district litigation assert that 3M knew about its design flaw for years and failed to correct the flaw or warn the medical community.