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Are Forced-Air Infection Claims a Bunch of Hot Air?

Some dismiss charges against Bair Hugger as "commercially driven junk science."

Published: December 9, 2015

What if your Bair Hugger system does more than keep patients warm and toasty? What if the waste heat from the forced-air warming unit also spreads airborne contaminants that can cause infections, as several recent lawsuits allege?

It's one of the burning questions surrounding patient warming: Do forced-air warmers, which have been used on more than 200 million patients, circulate contaminants that can cause wound infections?

A slew of patients have sued 3M in recent months, claiming that the Bair Hugger system caused the infections they sustained during surgery. 3M said there is no evidence that the Bair Hugger system causes infections during surgery, citing decades of research and clinical experience. In court filings, lawyers for 3M said allegations are largely based on anesthesiologist Scott Augustine's "unsupported theories that were part of his smear campaign against the Bair Hugger to promote his own competitive device.'' Read more in the December issue of Outpatient Surgery Magazine.

Dr. Augustine invented the Bair Hugger in 1987. After a contentious split from the company that sold the Bair Hugger to 3M, he invented the HotDog patient warming system, an air-free device that works similar to an electric blanket, warming the patient from above and below simultaneously. Dr. Augustine claims in an article in the The New York Times that the company selling the Bair Hugger knew of the infection risk as far back as 2010 and was covering up this danger to keep sales strong.

Dan O'Connor


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