Knee Surgery Infections May Be Caused By Bair Hugger Warmer

The product liability lawyers at Saiontz & Kirk, P.A. previously pursued claims for individuals who experienced complications involving an infection after knee replacement surgery since 2010, which resulted in the need for revision surgery.

The use of a 3M Bair Hugger Warming Blanket during surgery was linked to many knee infection problems. However, new claims are no longer being accepted or reviewed. This page provides information about claims previously reviewed.

This widely used “Forced-Air Warming blanket” was found in most operating rooms, and lawsuits alleged that it causes bacteria or contaminants from the floor to enter the sterile surgical field. This may increase the risk of developing a severe deep joint knee infection, often resulting in additional surgery to treat the infected knee.

Common symptoms of knee surgery infections may include:

  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling
  • Warmth and Redness at Surgical Site
  • Wound Drainage
  • Fever and Chills
  • Fatigue

Knee Implant Infection Problems

Infections resulting from knee replacement surgeries are rare. However, the use of certain types of warming blankets during the knee implant surgery may increase the risk of this serious complication.

The 3M Bair Hugger Warmer uses forced air to control body temperature during surgery, which is designed to reduce the risk of bleeding, speed up recovery and improve surgical outcomes following a knee replacement. However, safer alternative warming blanket designs were available.

In recent years, the Bair Hugger blanket has been used in more than 80% of all knee implant procedures, with more than 50,000 of the devices in hospitals throughout the U.S.

According to allegations raised in Bair Hugger knee infection lawsuits, the manufacturer of this device knew or should have known that the design may cause particles from the floor to entire the surgical site. Research has suggested that the device is linked to higher rates of hip sepsis, MRSA or other infections.

A knee replacement infection may result in the need for extensive medical treatment, often involving multiple surgical procedures to address the problems. This may lead to a long-term impact on the overall quality of life. In severe cases, infection after knee replacement surgery may even lead to the need for amputation.

Knee Replacement Infection Treatments

There are a number of different treatments for such knee infections. However, each has its advantages and disadvantages.

Two-Stage Knee Revision Surgery: One of the most common knee replacement infection treatments is also the most extreme. It involves having the original knee implant removed, as well as the infected tissue and bone, in a process known as debridement or irrigation. Then antibiotic-spacers are placed in the knee cavities where the tissue and implants were removed. Oral or intravenous antibiotics are also often employed.

The knee joint spacers are left in for six to twelve weeks, meaning that during that time there is no knee joint, resulting in loss of mobility. Once the infection is gone, the new implant is installed.

This procedure has the highest success rate, but also comes with a high risk of complications, including spacer dislocation, spacers which may not contain the correct antibiotic to treat the infection, temporary loss of mobility, and, in rare cases, a risk of allergic reactions and acute renal failure.

One-Stage Knee Replacement Revision Surgery: This technique involves having the implant removed, the infected flesh and bone debrided, and the new implant replaced in one operation. The new knee replacement usually involves the use of antibiotic cement to hold the new implant in place and to prevent future infection.

This revision surgery is financially less expensive than two-stage surgery and has a faster recovery time. However, there is a higher risk of infection recurrence.

Knee Infection Debridement/Irrigation and Implant Retension: In some cases, it is deemed necessary to leave the original knee implant in place. In these cases, usually used when infections are caught in their earliest stages, the infected tissue is debrided and the patient is given a long course of antibiotics. In some cases the patient takes oral or receives intravenous antibiotics for as little as six weeks, but in many cases the patient may have to take antibiotics for life.

While this procedure has the fastest recovery time regarding the use of the knee, the patient may have to take harsh antibiotics for a long period of time, increasing the risk of antibiotic drug side effects. In addition, results can vary significantly, with some studies indicating a success rate of anywhere from 26% to 71%.

Suppressive Antibiotics Only: This process involves long use of antibiotics and there is little data on the success rate. As a result, it is rarely used.

Amputation: In cases where the infection is not caught in a timely manner, or so severe that other procedures fail, the leg must sometimes be amputated above the knee to prevent further spread of the infection, resulting in loss of limb and the need for a prosthetic device.

Staphylococcus aureus is the most commonly associated infections with knee replacement surgery. In a small percentage of cases, the infection is due to methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, an antibiotic-resistant staph infection that is much more difficult to treat. The presence of staph infections increases the risk that the treatment to remove the infection will fail, according to some studies.

Knee Infection Lawyers

Potential knee replacement class action lawsuits and individual infection lawsuits were previously reviewed for individuals throughout the United States who experienced problems following a joint replacement since 2010. It appears likely that many of these infections may have been caused by the use of a Bair Hugger warming blanket during the knee replacement surgery.

Safer alternative warming devices were available, which may have allowed individuals to avoid suffering these complications. The knee infection lawyers at Saiontz & Kirk, P.A. are no longer pursuing new claims.