Joint Infection Lawsuit

While most people do very well following hip and knee replacement surgery, post-operative joint infections are a common complication. Now a growing number of joint infection lawsuits claim that the use of the 3M Bair Hugger forced air warming system during implant surgery may increase the chances for this potentially debilitating complication.

What is a Deep Joint Infection?

According to the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons, roughly 1 in 100 patients develop a joint infection following hip or knee implant surgery. Because artificial joints are made of metal and plastic, the immune system can not effectively attack bacteria that make it to these devices. If pathogens gain access to the implant, they may multiply and cause an infection. Some factors also increase the risk that a patient will suffer such an infection, including:

  • Immune deficiencies (such as HIV, lymphoma)
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Peripheral vascular disease (poor circulation to the hands and feet)
  • Immunosuppressive treatments (such as chemotherapy or corticosteroids)
  • Obesity

Symptoms associated with a post-operative joint infection include:

  • Increased pain or stiffness
  • Swelling
  • Warmth and redness around the wound
  • Wound drainage
  • Fevers, chills and night sweats
  • Fatigue

Bair Hugger Warming Blanket and Joint Infections

A growing number of joint infection lawsuits implicate the 3M Bair Hugger forced air warming system in hip and knee replacement infections experienced by many patients undergoing artificial joint surgery. The device, which consists of a portable heater connected to a disposable blanket via a flexible plastic tube, was introduced by Arizant Healthcare, Inc. in 1987. By the time the 3M Company acquired Arizant in 2006, the Bair Hugger was being used by thousand of U.S. hospitals to help patients maintain an optimum body temperature during surgery.

Plaintiffs who have filed these lawsuits claim that the Bair Hugger suffers from a design flaw that allows contaminants from the operating room floor to come into contact with the surgical wound during implant procedures. They further allege that the 3M Company and Arizant have been aware of this risk for years, yet failed to make design changes or issue any warnings to the medical community.

As of June 2016, more than 340 joint infection lawsuits involving the Bair Hugger forced air warmer blanket  had been filed in a multidistrict litigation located in the U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota.

Joint Infection Treatment

Surgical treatment for a post-operative joint infection generally starts with debridement. At this point, a surgeon removes all contaminated soft tissue and thoroughly cleans the implant. Plastic liners or spacers are replaced, and the patient is treated with IV antibiotics for approximately six weeks.

If the infection is not resolved, staged surgery might be required. The first stage consists of:

  • Removal of the implant
  • Washout of the joint and soft tissues
  • Placement of an antibiotic spacer
  • IV antibiotics

Once the infection is resolved, the patient will undergo stage 2 of the treatment, which involves revision surgery to replace their hip or knee implant. Revision procedures take longer and areassociated with more complications compared to initial implant surgery. In fact, some join infection lawsuit plaintiffs who are pursuing cases against the Bair Hugger’s manufacturers claim that they were left permanently disabled, even after revision surgery.

Learn More about Filing a Joint Infection Lawsuit

Bernstein Liebhard LLP offers free legal reviews to joint infection patients who underwent implant surgery with the 3M Bair Hugger blanket. To learn more, please call (888) 994-5118.

Last Modified: June 27, 2016

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