Recently, 3M’s normothermia system the Bair Hugger has been facing some legal issues. Lawyers all over the country have been advertising for people who have undergone a surgical procedure and faced medical complications post surgery. These attorneys state that they believe that the Bair Hugger is to blame, but is that actually the truth? Are the attorney’s promoting the class action lawsuits actually stating facts or is this merely an ambulance chasing tactic used to scare 3M into settling? Is the Bair Hugger really a faulty device like these lawsuits claim or is this a scheme to make some money? The answer to that question is that the lawsuits are merely an attempt for some of these law firms to try and make some money. The lawsuits are not based on facts but rather the jealous ramblings of a disgruntled individual who once was the Bair Hugger’s staunchest supporter.
It is important to start at the beginning when trying to figure how these lawsuits began to proliferate the mainstream media. The Bair Hugger has a long and successful history in the medical field and is still used by numerous hospitals all over the nation. To this day, numerous doctors and hospitals agree that the Bair Hugger is the best forced-air warming system on the market. Invented in 1987, it was an answer to numerous issues that a surgical staff once faced in the operating room during a surgery. Since 1987, it has been used over 200 million times in the operating room at different hospitals in the United States. The system has the largest portfolio of scientifically designed specialty products that allows doctors and hospitals to provide tailored solutions to uniquely fit each surgery. Each surgery can be a unique situation and the Bair Hugger system provides different options to cover all a patient’s warming needs during surgery.
Another reason why the Bair Hugger is so beloved is due to the fact that it is a simple and straightforward system. The system is used to prevent hypothermia during surgery. The system uses forced, warm air to help keep the body at a normal temperature while under anesthesia. The Bair Hugger temperature management system is comprised of warming units and disposable blankets. The warming unit is connected to the disposable blanket with a hose. The warming unit generates warm air, which is then forced to the disposable blanket through the hose. The disposable blanket, which is placed on top of the patient during surgery, is designed to let the warm air flow throughout the blanket effectively warming the patient. Hence keeping the patient warm and helping to prevent hypothermia.
Up until 1987, surgical teams faced the very real issue of a patient’s body temperature dropping rapidly during surgery. The first hour of anesthesia is critical. Patient’s undergoing surgery are the most at risk for developing hypothermia during that first hour. Some patients are able to return to normothermic levels post surgery but some people’s bodies are unable to return to those levels. Those patients whose bodies cannot warm up after surgery then suffer from hypothermia. Hypothermia can cause a variety of detrimental effects on the body.
Many specialists in the surgical field agree that the only way to help prevent hypothermia during surgery is to warm their patient’s body before and during surgery. Experts like Dr. Daniel Sessler, of the Department of Outcomes Research at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, is a proponent of forced-air warming in the surgical room. Dr. Sessler told Reuters Health in a telephone interview that, “Most patients become hypothermic during the first hour of anesthesia and then temperature slowly returns toward normal, so that by the end of the surgery most patients are normothermic, But the amount of hypothermia that we saw and the number of hypothermic patients was fairly high, and the amount of hypothermia was significantly associated with the need for blood transfusion.”
If so many experts, hospitals, and patients agree that the Bair Hugger is an essential part of the operating room, why are there lawsuits out there that portray the Bair Hugger as a defective product that can potentially cause surgical site infections? The answer to that question lies with the inventor of the Bair Hugger. As shocking as that sounds, the origination of the claims came from Dr. Scott Augustine, who was the inventor of the Bair Hugger. Although it seems illogical, Dr. Augustine made the claims because he created a competing product to the Bair Hugger. Dr. Augustine sold the Bair Hugger to a company called Arizant. 3M bought Arizant in 2010 and then successfully sold the product to hospitals across the nation. Dr. Augustine was on the board at Arizant but had a falling out over an undisclosed issue before the buyout by 3M. Dr. Augustine left the company on poor terms and then decided that he was going to create a competing product. Once his new product was finished, he immediately started a campaign to discredit the Bair Hugger. The origin of the lawsuits is really just a case of a disgruntled individual.
Once 3M heard about the lawsuits, they immediately sprang into action and began to conduct studies on the Bair Hugger to address the concerns that were raised. Even though the company knew at the time the basis of the claims were raised by the original inventor. A respected independent research group, ECRI, examined a study conducted by Dr. Augustine’s company and determined that the evidence does not justify discontinuing the use of the Bair Hugger in hospitals. ECRI also chastised Dr. Augustine’s company for mischaracterizing the results of a study that they conducted on the Bair Hugger to say that the Bair Hugger causes surgical sites infections. 3M also conducted internal studies as well that proved that the Bair Hugger is perfectly safe and the claims that have been made by Dr. Augustine were false.
Attorneys advertising these lawsuits have ignored the numerous internal and external studies conducted that prove Bair Hugger’s efficiency and safety. It is a product that has been trusted for over three decades and continues to play a large role in hospitals everywhere. It is important to know the facts before making assumptions about the Bair Hugger. Hospitals and doctors agree that the Bair Hugger will continue to be used in the operating room to help make sure that the patient’s stay warm and comfortable during surgery.
The Need for Forced Air Warming During Surgery