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  • Writer's pictureAmanda Leckman

Bair Hugger Elevates Risk of Infection in Hip and Knee Surgeries

Updated: Jul 24, 2023

At bottom, a patient undergoing surgery is vulnerable to an increased risk of infection. Controlling the surgical environment is key in mitigating this increased risk. Operating rooms circulate cool, filtered air, in order to prevent airborne contaminants from entering surgical incision sites.

In the late 1980s, 3M brought to market its first Bair Hugger surgical warming blanket. The Bair Hugger system consists of a warming unit attached to a disposable blanket via a flexible hose. The system is designed to regulate the body temperature of a patient undergoing surgery with general anesthesia. Bair Hugger has been used in an estimated 200 million procedures since its inception.

Since the early 2000s, several published peer-reviewed studies have indicated that the Bair Hugger system may be able to draw contaminants from operating room air and drive them towards surgical incision sites, increasing the risk of infection. The studies include, but are not limited to Huang (2003), Albrecht (2010), McGovern (2011), and He (2017). Albrecht concluded that the design of certain forced air warming devices that used the Bair Hugger 200708C filter was “inadequate for preventing the internal buildup and emission of microbial contaminants into the operating room.” He concluded that based on simulations, “The hot air from the blower and the resultant thermal plumes are capable of lifting the particles and transporting them to the side tables, above the OT (operating table), and the surgical site.” Reports supportive of the Bair Hugger system have also been published, including Moretti (2009), Madrid (2016).Oguz (2017), and Karam (2018).

Thousands of lawsuits involving the Bair Hugger system have been consolidated in a multi-district litigation (MDL) in Minnesota federal court. The cases had been dismissed by the federal court judge, but on August 16, 2021, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reversed the dismissal.

Bair Hugger is often used during knee or hip implant surgery. Patients undergoing hip and knee joint replacement procedures are especially at risk for infection because the procedure is long and invasive. Key signs of infection include: fatigue, fever, pain, stiffness, swelling, redness around the incision, and wound drainage. If you developed an infection after a knee or hip implant surgery and had to undergo a subsequent surgery, we are interested in speaking with you about potential legal remedies. You are encouraged to fill out the contact form on our website or contact Leckman Law LLC directly at

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