Four independent peer reviewed studies have been published showing that forced-air patient warming devices generate convection currents that disrupt the sterile field.  One such study (McGovern, JBJS-br, 2011) even showed a 74% decrease in deep-joint infection rates after discontinuing the use of forced-air patient warming. They switched to air-free HotDog patient warming (1250 patients, 2.5 years).

Despite this strong evidence, 3M, the manufacturer of Bair Hugger® forced-air warming, has continued to obfuscate and assure the world that its forced-air warming products are universally safe.  In a recent letter to healthcare professionals, Bob Buehler, VP of 3M Patient Warming, even accuses us of “promoting a campaign designed to instill fear through misleading claims.”

To be clear: we are educating the healthcare community about a practice that puts orthopedic patients at risk for infection.  Every claim we make is backed by science and published research.  Our mission is to protect patients and to provide a safe, effective, and affordable solution.

3M even purchased the opinion of Dr. Javad Parvizi for a “white paper” on the subject.  His report can be found at 3M’s website

The “fatal flaw” discrediting the McGovern study—according to Dr. Parvizi—is that the type of antibiotic administered to patients was not controlled over the 2.5-year period of collecting infection data, a variance the authors acknowledge. Dr. Parvizi does not explain how changing antibiotics could account for the 74% drop in deep joint infections that McGovern showed after discontinuing the use of forced-air warming.

Dr. Parvizi’s report also did not mention two even more recent published studies that also addressed the issue of waste heat produced by FAW blowers.

Brent Augustine, President of Augustine Temperature Management, asked to respond to Dr. Parvizi’s comments, stated:

“There is a strong—and growing—body of evidence supporting the McGovern paper, despite what Dr. Parvizi decides to use on his own patients. Independent orthopedic surgeons, not on the payroll of any manufacturer, have concluded that air-free warming should be used in orthopedic and other ultra-clean surgeries.

“When a device manufacturer hires experts to write laudatory articles about the safety of its products, medical professionals are rightly suspicious. Unpublished research has never been highly regarded. Dr. Parvizi’s work should be regarded no differently.”