A lawsuit was recently filed in Kansas federal court by a man who allegedly developed an MRSA infection which required the amputation of his leg after undergoing knee replacement surgery with a Bair Hugger forced-air warming blanket.
What’s the problem?
The lawsuit was filed in March 2014 by plaintiff Timothy Johnson, who had knee replacement surgery at the University of Kansas Hospital (KU Med) in September 2010. Following the operation, Johnson developed a severe MRSA infection which eventually led to his leg being amputated. According to the complaint, air from the Bair Hugger creates “airflow currents that deposit bacteria from the floor of the surgical room into the surgical site.”
Another patient, Rosie Bartel, also got MRSA following knee replacement surgery with a Bair Hugger blanket. As a result, she was forced to undergo at least 27 surgeries and lost her leg to the hip, and is now confined to a wheelchair.
Bair Hugger Studies: Warming Blanket Causes Serious Infection Risks
A November 2011 study published in the Journal Bone and Joint Surgery found a significant increase in deep joint infections with forced-air warming (FAW) devices like the Bair Hugger. The study’s authors recommended air-free warming for orthopedic procedures.
Another study published in Anesthesia & Analgesia in August 2013 found that FAW devices could “establish convection currents that mobilized resident air from non-sterile areas (under the anesthesia drape) upward and into the surgical site,” increasing the risk of infection in prolonged vascular and hip surgery.