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Minnesota Doctor’s Innovative Device Gone Wrong

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo Plotkin & Hellman LLP

By: Indhira Benitez

Dr. Augustine’s device, the “Bair Hugger,” changed surgical practices and made him a fortune, but it is linked to life-threatening hospital infections.

Doctors within the medical field are constantly thinking of new inventions and ideas to make the field of medicine more efficient and safer for patients all across the country. An interesting story comes to us from Dr. Scott D. Augustine, an anesthesiologist, who two decades ago helped pioneer the idea of keeping a patient warm during surgery with a forced air device, which acts as a blanket over the patient’s body during surgery. Dr. Augustine’s primary purpose was to help patients during and after surgery. Studies have shown that Dr. Augustine’s invention produces benefits like less bleeding and a faster recovery.

Unfortunately, like with any new inventions, there were some issues with the “Bair Hugger” device, which were not foreseen by Dr. Augustine. Dr. Augustine asserts that his invention is a danger to surgical patients receiving implant devices like artificial heart valves and joints. The forced air, he claims, can spread bacteria associated with hospital-acquired infections.

“I am very proud of the old technology,” he said. “But I am also proud to spread the word that there is a problem.” It is not unusual for a developer or a company to assert that a new device is safer, more efficient or cheaper than an existing one. In this case, Dr. Augustine wants to make sure to spread the word so that no patients are harmed due to what he thought would be beneficial and not detrimental to the medical industry.

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