The Bair Hugger forced air warming system is an amazing product and a remarkable invention. Most people who have had surgery have heard of the product before but have no idea what the history is behind this amazing invention nor do they understand the importance behind the device. People just know that the Bair Hugger is the key to a successful surgery and shortens the recovery time post surgery. This hospital and operating room staple has been a trusted asset and has warmed over 130 million patients worldwide. So what is the story behind on of the most dependable medical inventions? How did it become so essential in the surgical room and why do doctors and hospitals trust it unquestionably? It is important to understand how an operating room works in understand the importance of the Bair Hugger.
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Before 1987, there was a myriad of issues that faced people in the operating room before the invention of the Bair Hugger. The main issue that a majority of surgical patients faced was getting hypothermia in the operating room. Hypothermia is when the body loses heat faster than it can produce it. It can occur anytime after the body temperature passes below 95 degrees Fahrenheit or 35 degrees Celsius. It is defined as a medical emergency and when your body temperature drops your heart, nervous system and other organs are unable to function properly. Hypothermia conjures up visions of the outdoors, freezing water and snow. Even though an operating room is not considered a cold, harsh environment, it can be for some patients. Operating rooms are kept below 73.4 degrees Fahrenheit so below the normal body temperature. The cold operating room is the single biggest reason why there is a risk of hypothermia in the operating room. The cold room isn’t the only reason why patients can suffer from hypothermia.
The operating room must be kept at a lower temperature to help keep the operating personnel comfortable. If the operating room is too warm then the personnel can become uncomfortable. They have to wear multiple layers of clothing that can include sterile gowns and lead aprons. All these layers of clothing combined with a high-level of stress can cause the surgeons to sweat. Sweat doesn’t seem like a big deal but if the OR personnel are not careful, they could potentially sweat into the patient’s open surgical incision which could cause an infection. Also, the room must be kept cold to help prevent humidity from building up in the room. The condensation can also cause serious risks to the patient. The moisture can build up to the point where it almost “rains” and it can contaminate the sterile operating environment. As the moisture moves along the surface of the operating room it can pick up bacteria. This condensation can also potentially fall into the open surgical incision causing a serious infection. Keeping the operating room a lower temperature also helps slow the growth of bacteria viruses and other organisms.
Patients can get hypothermia for other reasons besides a cold operating room. The longer a person must undergo a surgery, the more likely they are to get hypothermia. Patients are not clothed during surgery so the longer the surgery; the longer their body will be exposed to the cold in the operating room. The drugs that are used for the surgery also can cause issues with the body’s thermoregulatory control system. The IV fluid is usually cold and can decrease the body temperature. Anyone that has had an IV drip can testify to the fact that the fluid is cold going in the body. Certain anesthetic drugs can also cause the body temperature to drop. A majority of patients become hypothermic during the first hour of surgery. Some patients are able to return to a normal temperature post surgery. However, some patients are unable to regulate their body temperature without assistance from a warming device. These issue force the need for air warming system.
Hypothermia does not affect every single patient undergoing surgery. There are certain patients who are more susceptible to hypothermia than others. Elderly patients are more susceptible to hypothermia. As we age, our bodies are not able to regulate temperature very well and our ability to sense cold lessens with age. People suffering from hypothyroidism, stroke, severe arthritis, Parkinson’s and neuropathies are all more likely to become hypothermic during surgery. These two different groups of people are typically more dehydrated and malnourished than the general population which factors into their susceptibility to hypothermia. Certain medications like antipsychotics and sedatives can also impair the body’s ability to return to a normal temperature.
There are several complications and even the possible risk of death when the body reaches hypothermic levels. Intraoperative core hypothermia can cause coagulopathy, surgical wound infection, and possibly myocardial complications, which are all very serious problems. Patients are three times more likely to suffer from cardiac complications and surgical site infections. Surgical site infections are caused when the bacteria enters the wound and causes an infection. There is also a higher risk of developing pressure ulcers. Hypothermia causes the blood vessels to constrict and cause decreased blood flow to tissues and can create favorable conditions for bacteria to grow.
The solution to this common problem is the Bair Hugger. It’s a complicated process how it works. This forced air warming system helps to maintain the body’s temperature during surgery. A plastic, disposable blanket is placed over the patient’s body and warm air is circulated through the blanket. The warm air circulating in the blanket helps to keep the patient warm. The first hour of surgery is very critical and the Bair Hugger is the best way to help prevent hypothermia during that precarious time. For over 25 years, the Bair Hugger has warmed over 50,000 patients a day in over 80 percent of the hospitals nationwide. There have been over 170 studies conducted on the safety of the Bair Hugger and each study has confirmed what hospitals and doctors already agree on, the Bair Hugger is a very crucial asset in the operating room.