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Home E-Weekly February 20, 2018

Computer Model Shows Forced-Air Warming Can Cause SSIs

Published: February 20, 2018

Bair Hugger FEELING THE HEAT 3M refutes claims that the Bair Hugger is to blame for post-op infections.

It's possible for forced-air warmers to cause surgical site infections by disrupting laminar air flow and blowing bacteria back into the sterile field, according to new research published in the International Journal for Numerical Methods in Biomedical Engineering.

An OR's Laminar air flow is designed to send highly filtered air down from the ceiling to push airborne contaminants away from the sterile field. The study's authors used high-fidelity simulations of how warming blanket blowers impact laminar air flow to show the blowers push and drag potentially colonized skin squames shed from surgical team members above the sterile field and over the side of surgical tables, where laminar air flow pushes them down toward the surgical site.

"Medical equipment in the OR, and the surgical staff, can disrupt the air flow in ways that increase the amount of bacterial colony-forming units, and so do the rising plumes of hot air from forced-air warming devices that prevent patient hypothermia," says study lead author Sourabh Apte, PhD, ME, BE, a professor of mechanical engineering at Oregon State University.

3M faces more than 4,000 lawsuits from patients who claim the company knew about the potential increased risk of joint infections linked with the use of the popular Bair Hugger forced-air warming devices during hip and knee replacement surgeries. The first trial is scheduled to begin this spring.

3M continues to deny its product causes surgical site infections. "There is no generally accepted science that the Bair Hugger warming system causes infections," says the company.

The FDA "has been unable to identify a consistently reported association between the use of forced-air thermal regulating systems and surgical site infection," after reviewing available data.

Daniel Cook

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