Oct 23, 2015

More than just hot air – the facts on forced-air warming

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Despite the large number of people who are treated with 3M’s forced-air warming products each day, claims from one competitor allege that the 3M™ Bair Hugger™ warming system may harm rather than help patients. Jay Issa, Global Business Director of 3M’s Patient Warming business, recently provided insight on these unsubstantiated claims and 3M’s commitment to patient safety.

Q. Is the 3M Bair Hugger patient warming system safe to use in orthopedic and other procedures?

A. Absolutely. The FDA cleared 3M’s Bair Hugger forced-air warming products to treat and prevent hypothermia for patients before, during and after surgical procedures more than 25 years ago. 3M has built its reputation as a credible, science based company by making products customers can rely upon. 3M Health Care earns the trust of health care providers everyday by making products for patients that are safe, effective and improve the quality of care. 3M would not continue to sell a product if there was reason to believe it harmed patients or providers.

Q. Do you think the advertisements claiming that 3M Bair Hugger forced-air warming products caused infections in patients who underwent knee and hip replacement surgeries are true?

A. No, these advertisements are not based on fact. More than 170 clinical studies have utilized 3M Bair Hugger therapy, and studies have demonstrated forced-air warming’s clinical effectiveness. Studies have demonstrated perioperative temperature management with forced-air warming actually reduces the risk of surgical site infections1, surgical bleeding2-4 and risk of heart attack.5 In fact, in its entire history of warming more than 200 million patients, not one hospital, doctor or medical provider has reported a single confirmed incidence of infection caused by 3M™ Bair Hugger™ therapy.

Q. Does the Bair Hugger system increase the risk of surgical site infections, particularly in patients undergoing orthopedic joint replacements?

A. No, these claims are entirely false and without scientific merit. Neither 3M nor reputable third-parties have been able to replicate a competitor’s claims and independent, randomized control trial studies have shown that perioperative temperature management with forced-air warming actually decreases risk of surgical site infections.1 In fact, when tested in actual surgical conditions, research shows that forced-air warming actually does not increase the bacterial count at the surgical site and may decrease it.6-8

At 3M, we are confident in the scientific evidence that supports forced-air warming to maintain normothermia in surgical patients. To help professionals make an informed decision, consider exploring the recent independent research findings:

  • ECRI Institute – Forced-Air Warming and Surgical Site Infections: Our Review Finds Insufficient Evidence to Support Changes in Clinical Practice
  • ICC Report – Proceedings of the International Consensus Meeting on Periprosthetic Joint Infection

Get clinical information about the efficacy of forced-air warming


1. Kurz A, Sessler DI, Lenhardt R. Perioperative normothermia to reduce the incidence of surgical-wound infection and shorten hospitalization. Study of Wound Infection and Temperature Group. N Engl J Med 1996;334:1209–1215.

2. Schmeid H, Kurz A, Sessler DI, Kozek S, Reiter A. Mild hypothermia increases blood loss and transfusion requirements during total hip arthroplasty. Lancet 1996:347(8997):289–92.

3.Winkler M, Akça O, Birkenberg B, et al. Aggressive warming reduces blood loss during hip arthroplasty. Anesth Analg 2000;91(4):978–84.

4. Rajagopalan S, Mascha E, Na J, Sessler DI: The effects of mild perioperative hypothermia on blood loss and transfusion requirement. Anesthesiology 2008; 108:71–7.

5. Frank SM, Fleisher LA, Breslow MJ, et al. Perioperative maintenance of normothermia reduces the incidence of morbid cardiac events: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA 1997;277:1127–34.

6. Zink RS, Iaizzo PA. Convective warming therapy does not increase the risk of wound contamination in the operating room. Anesth Analg. Jan 1993;76(1):50-53.

7. Huang JK, Shah EF, Vinodkumar N, Hegarty MA, Greatorex RA. The Bair Hugger patient warming system in prolonged vascular surgery: an infection risk? Crit Care 2003;7:R13–R16.

8. Moretti B, Larocca AM, Napoli C., et al. Active warming systems to maintain perioperative normothermia in hip replacement surgery: a therapeutic aid or a vector of infection? J Hospital Infect 2009; 73: 58–63.

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