3M’s Bair Hugger Spread MRSA, Federal Lawsuit Alleges

3M's Bair Hugger patient warming, according to a complaint filed in Kansas Federal Court, spread Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), causing an orthopedic infection and amputation of the Plaintiff's leg.
KANSAS CITY, Kan. - March 19, 2014 - PRLog -- A complaint filed in Kansas Federal District Court (Case 2:14-cv-02044) alleges that Bair Hugger patient warming, a surgical device manufactured by 3M, caused the plaintiff to become infected with Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), leading to amputation of his leg.  The plaintiff, Timothy Johnson, alleges that he incurred the MRSA infection during implantation of an artificial knee at The University of Kansas Hospital in September 2010. Bair Hugger warming, the complaint alleges, was used during the surgery.

The case was filed on behalf of Johnson by Mike Sexton, Kansas City personal injury attorney.  Sexton has repeatedly been listed by The Best Lawyers in America and named to Superlawyers of Kansas and Missouri.

The Bair Hugger system consists of a portable heater/blower connected by a flexible hose to a disposable blanket that blows hot air on a patient’s exposed skin. According to the complaint, the hot air accumulates under the surgical drape and escapes below the level of the surgical table. The complaint further alleges that the escaped air creates warm, rising, airflow currents that deposit bacteria from the floor of the surgical room into the surgical site.

3M, the Complaint alleges, knew about the risks that Bair Hugger poses to patients, but has made no attempt to redesign the product or to warn healthcare providers of the risks.  In fact, it states, 3M has “taken every step to conceal and discredit any scientific studies which might undermine their sales.”

Similar claims have been made against 3M’s Bair Hugger by a Houston, Texas orthopedic implant patient.  Information about the Texas case can be found at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2013/3/prweb10554160.htm

The Kansas City and Houston lawsuits occurred after The Bone and Joint Journalpublished research conducted by UK orthopedic surgeons.  Concerned by convection currents produced by forced-air warming devices, the surgeons compared Bair Hugger warming with an air-free warming system. 2,000 times more contaminant particles were found in the air over the wound with Bair Hugger warming, an increase of 217,300%. The study may be seen athttp://www.bjj.boneandjoint.org.uk/content/95-B/3/407.short?rss=1&cited-by=yes&legid=jbjsbr;95-B/3/407&related-urls=yes&legid=jbjsbr;95-B/3/407 (http://www.bjj.boneandjoint.org.uk/content/95-B/3/407.sho...)

Dr. Scott Augustine, inventor of Bair Hugger warming, defends the device , claiming that it is “probably safe in soft-tissue surgeries. The risk to patients only occurs with implanted devices,” he says, “like artificial joints. In those surgeries, a single bacteria landing on the device can secrete a biofilm, making it impervious to antibiotics and antibodies.  The infection can erupt weeks later.  In those cases, the pathogen usually arrives through the air.

“In soft tissue surgeries,” Dr. Augustine concluded, “the risk of infection from FAW is much less.”

More than 50,000 forced-air warming units are currently in use across the country, and the technology is used in almost all total joint replacement surgeries.  Several plaintiffs’ firms have begun advertising for patients potentially injured by Bair Hugger.





About StopSurgicalInfections

StopSurgicalInfections (SSI) is dedicated to educating healthcare professionals about the risks and consequences of surgical infections infections.  SSI monitors scientific publications for research relating to such infections, with particularly emphasis on peri-prosthetic infections.  SSI is supported by Augustine Temperature Management.

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