Lawsuits filed over the 3M Bair Hugger forced air warming blanket continue to mount in the centralized proceeding underway in Minnesota. According to an update issued by the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation on April 15th, there are currently 217 cases pending in the proceeding, up from about 160 filings just a month ago.
Last month, Reuters reported that the Bair Hugger litigation was one of the fastest-growing proceedings in federal court. When the multidistrict litigation was established in December, just a dozen cases had been transferred to the U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota. The rapid growth of the multidistrict litigation speaks to the wide –spread use of the Bair Hugger at hospitals throughout the country.
The Bair Hugger is a surgical warming system marketed by the 3M Company’s Arizant Healthcare, Inc. subsidiary. According to a report published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune last November, the device has been n used in more than 200 million surgeries since it was first brought to market in 1987.
The Bair Hugger system consists of a portable warming device that is connected to a disposable blanket via a flexible plastic tube. The warmer blows heat into the blanket, which is made up of rows of inflatable tubes. Warming patients during operations prevents hypothermia, and is thought to improve surgical outcomes.
All of the forced air warmer lawsuits currently pending in Minnesota were filed on behalf of hip and knee replacement patients who allegedly developed serious deep joint infections due to the use of the Bair Hugger during implant surgery. They claim that the system suffers from a design defect that allows waste heat to build up under the surgical table and creates convection currents that carry contaminated air from the floor to the surgical site, where they come into to contact with the implant. According to the complaints, this occurrence greatly increases the likelihood that a hip or knee replacement patient will develop a post-op infection at the joint.
Bair Hugger lawsuit plaintiffs further contend that 3M and Arizant have known about this risk for years. Yet they have not redesigned the apparatus to eliminate the alleged defect or issued any type of warnings to patients or doctors. Rather, plaintiffs claim that the companies continue to aggressively market the Bair Hugger, and wrongly maintain that it is safe for use in orthopedic surgeries.