Patient Safety News: Bair Hugger blanket allegedly led to amputation

Lawsuits continue to mount against manufacturer 3M for its Bair Hugger blanket devices, which have been used by hospitals since the 1980s to keep patients warm before, during, and after surgery involving anesthesia.

This week in Louisiana, a retired New Orleans police officer and Vietnam War veteran filed a lawsuit claiming that the Bair Hugger system led to the amputation of his left leg.

As reported by the Louisiana Record, Lee Edward Peyton underwent joint replacement surgery in the summer of 2007, during which a Bair Hugger blanket was used. Peyton’s lawyers say the blanket’s air circulation system introduced methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) into the wound site, leading to infection.

“As a result, his knee implant allegedly failed and Peyton endured several more medical emergencies, including six more surgeries, the removal of his knee joint, and ultimately, the amputation of his left leg just below the hip,” the Record reported.

Working in collaboration with other national law firms, Berman & Simmons is handling claims involving patients who developed serious infections after surgeries in which Bair Hugger and other forced-air heating systems were used.

Dozens of Bair Hugger lawsuits have been filed nationwide against 3M and its subsidiary company, Arizant Healthcare, which sells more than 20 models in the Bair Hugger product line.

Overall, the lawsuits allege that 3M and Arizant Healthcare were aware of the risks of hospital-acquired infection, particularly for joint surgery and heart valve replacement patients, but did not warn patients or the medical community. Some claims also allege the companies tried to conceal scientific research that found problems with forced-air warming systems.