Patients do not like to give up control of their bodies, and procedures that involve anesthesia require even more lost control than patients realize. Anesthesia affects a patient’s ability to regulate normal body temperature, placing him or her in danger of hypothermia. While many different surgical heaters are used to correct this problem without incident, some warming methods carry significant risks of infection, revision surgeries, and even amputation.
Design Flaws of Forced Air Warming Blankets Cause Infections and Other Side Effects
When it was first introduced, the forced air warming blanket was seen as an easy and sterile way for patients to be kept warn during surgery, since the blankets were meant to be discarded after each patient use. However, flaws in the design of the device actually encouraged bacteria to enter a patient’s body, increasing the risk of a serious infection in a number of ways:
- Temperature increases. A 2012 study discovered that forced air warming blankets had a significantly higher mean temperature than radiant warming blankets, encouraging the growth and survival of bacteria during surgery.
- Particulates. Forced air blankets introduce and circulate more air particles over a patient’s body than other heating methods. The more particulates in the air, the more bacteria can latch on to them and be transported into the patient’s body.
- Waste heat. The heat from a forced air warming blanket increases the air temperature of the surgical drape, creating a convection current over the patient. This current has the potential to draw bacteria from non-sterile areas (such as the operating room floors) up to the patient and into the surgical site.
Once bacteria has entered the body, it can invade all tissues and can survive inside the patient long after the wound has been closed. As a result, forced air warming blankets can cause many life-threatening complications for surgery patients, such as:
- Deep joint infection. A study released in 2011 found that forced-air warming blankets carried a significantly increased likelihood of deep joint infection over conductive fabric warming. Infections were allowed to fester within the body as a patient healed from surgery, such as sepsis and methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), resulting in treatment with long-term antibiotics that required additional hospital stays and prolonged recovery times.
- Surgery. Patients who suffer infections while undergoing knee and hip replacement procedures may be unable to heal if the bacteria has taken root in the device. If antibiotics do not kill the bacteria, these patients may be forced to undergo a second surgery to remove the infected device and replace it with a new one, or opt for another surgery that does not involve foreign objects (such as joint fusion).
- Disability. Widespread infection can cause permanent losses in a number of ways. Implant revision surgeries often require the cutting away of bones and tissues, making it less likely that a patient will be able to walk, sit, and stand normally as time goes on. In severe cases, amputation may be needed to stop the spread of infection, permanently altering a patient’s appearance and physical abilities.
- Death. Patients who have suffered a serious infection may die if they are unable to tolerate antibiotics or have compromised immune systems that prevent them from fighting the bacteria.
Help for Patients and Families After a Forced Air Warming Blanket Causes Infection
Patients who have suffered after surgery often do not realize that a defective warming blanket was the cause of their infection. Doctors may claim that infections are a risk of any surgery, while hoping you don’t ask too many questions about the procedure that could open them up to a lawsuit. It is important to note that we can help you file a claim against the manufacturer of the device, not your doctor or hospital, getting you the compensation you deserve from the people who are truly at fault.
No matter where you live, The McGartland Law Firm can investigate the circumstances of your surgery to determine who is to blame for your suffering. We fight to recover your lost income, costs of medical treatment, and permanent suffering caused by a surgical infection, and we do not charge any legal fees unless we win your case. Call or email us today to speak with one of our legal representatives about your claim.