3M is battling lawsuits from more than 50 orthopedic surgery patients who say the company’s popular Bair Hugger warming blankets, used to keep people warm before surgery, circulated contaminants and caused debilitating deep-joint infections, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
The Bair Hugger forced-air warming blanket has been used in more than 200 million surgeries since 1987, and lawyers for the manufacturer say no study has proved that it causes surgical infections. But a skirmish over the science is shaping up, with new lawsuits being filed daily and plaintiffs’ attorneys eyeing a potential national suit with thousands of plaintiffs.
3M paid about $800 million in 2010 to acquire Arizant, the Eden Prairie-based maker of the Bair Hugger. The single-use device is used in four out of five U.S. hospitals today.
Attorneys representing the injured patients say research shows the device can spread airborne contaminants while warming up surgical patients. The inventor of the device, Dr. Scott Augustine, is expected to testify that the device he developed in the late 1980s creates infection risk, especially for joint-surgery patients.
“There is no question that it’s a true phenomenon. It’s happening. And it’s easy to show,” said Augustine, the Twin Cities anesthesiologist and entrepreneur who now opposes use of the Bair Hugger because of the infection risk. “With regard to orthopedic infections, a scare is what’s needed. This product should never be on another orthopedic patient.”
Augustine is a controversial figure. He pleaded guilty to a health care-related misdemeanor in 2004 and was ordered to pay a $2 million fine, though he has denied doing anything wrong. Today he is the chief executive of Eden Prairie’s Augustine Temperature Management, which sells a competing patient-warming device called the HotDog that uses conductive heat similar to an electric blanket, rather than forced air.
Augustine said he regularly gives lectures to health care professionals about his concerns regarding the device. Last week, a news release from 3M cheered a ruling by a federal judge that will force Augustine to turn over documents and answer questions about his role in promoting the alleged risks about the Bair Hugger.
3M sells an array of disposable Bair Hugger patient-warming blankets, retailing for between $6 and $24 apiece. The blankets include rows of inflatable tubes that fill up with hot air to warm patients, which is thought to improve surgical outcomes by preventing heat loss from the body’s core and reducing the risk of hypothermia from anesthesia.
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Our dangerous device attorneys can help if you or someone you care about was harmed by a Bair Hugger warming blanket. Lawsuits have been filed against the device makers by both patients and their families seeking compensation for injuries caused. You may be entitled to a settlement. We do not charge any legal fees unless you receive a settlement and we pay all of the case costs. If your claim is not successful for any reason, you do not owe us anything. We put it all in writing for you. Our lawyers will help you file your lawsuit.
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