Home E-Weekly January 16, 2018

State Judge Dismisses Some Bair Hugger Lawsuits

Published: January 15, 2018

HOT AIR No generally accepted scientific evidence links infection risk to forced-air warming, according to the ruling.

A district court judge has dismissed dozens of lawsuits filed by Minnesota residents who allege that the Bair Hugger forced-air warmer caused their deep joint infections during joint replacement surgery by blowing contaminants off of the floor and into their open wounds — essentially the same claim that more than 4,000 orthopedic surgery patients from across the country have made in their pending federal lawsuits.

"There is no generally accepted scientific evidence — and plaintiffs offer none — that the risk of infection associated with forced-air warming systems is greater than that associated with patients who are not warmed during surgery," wrote the judge in granting 3M's motion for summary judgment last week.

While the state court ruling won't directly impact the federal cases, it's worth noting that federal prosecutors are expected to call many of the same expert witnesses and rely on many of the same studies as their colleagues in district court did.

The first "bellwether" federal lawsuit is scheduled for trial in the spring.

Prosecutors argued that the Bair Hugger alters the normal downward push of an OR's laminar flow that's designed to keep bacteria-carrying particles on the floor and that the device's blower might harbor bacteria. The lawsuits were backed by computer models, expert testimony and studies that show airborne contamination could happen. Lawyers for 3M, the maker of the Bair Hugger, countered that numerous experts and studies support the safety of the device and argued that no surgical site infection has been linked to its use.

A spokeswoman for 3M says the judge's decision backs the company's position that its devices do not cause SSIs. The patients who filed the lawsuits reportedly plan to appeal the judge's decision.

Daniel Cook

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