Forced-Air Warming Linked to Orthopedic Surgery Infection: Studies


Recent studies published in medical journals questioning the safety of forced-air patient warming in orthopedic implant and other ultra-clean surgeries could mean a wave of new litigation.


The FAW system has been a gold standard in operating rooms for years and is currently used in almost all joint replacement surgeries. But new studies show they could contaminate the surgical site because of the internal air-flow paths of their blowers.

A study published in The Bone & Joint Journal published the results of a retrospective analysis of 1,437 hip and knee replacements. There was a 76 percent decrease in deep joint infection when FAW was discontinued and replaced with air-free warming.

Additional peer-reviewed articles established that 1,000-plus watts of rising heat form FAW blowers mobilize contamination from the floor of the operating room that could deposit in the sterile surgical field. Another article from The Bone & Joint Journal showed a 217,000 percent increase in contamination over the wound site with FAW.

The American Journal of Infection Control published an article finding 58 percent of the FAW blowers evaluated internally generated and emitted airborne contaminates and microorganisms were detected on the internal air path surfaces of 92.3 percent of the blowers.

According to recent estimates, there are 20,000 periprostethic joint infections each year and the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons estimates it costs approximately $100,000 to treat each event.

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