Manufacturer warns of patient warming device

The manufacturer of a popular patient warming device is warning risk managers that hospital staff often misuse it in a way that can lead to serious patient injury and lawsuits. Augustine Medical in Eden Prairie, MN, makes the "Bair Hugger" device used for perioperative temperature management. Forced air warming devices consist of a warming unit, hose, and a special blanket, but Augustine issued a special warning recently about a dangerous practice called "hosing."

"Hosing occurs when forced air warming devices are used improperly. Traumatic thermal injury — sometimes third-degree burns — can result, and some lawsuits have already been filed against hospitals and clinicians," the company says.

Company launches awareness campaign

Hosing is a practice in which clinicians fail to attach a blanket to the hose, instead using the hose itself to focus heat directly onto the patient. The company says this practice can lead to serious injury. Augustine Medical has launched a campaign to raise awareness of the danger of hosing through advertisements in industry periodicals, by sponsoring clinician speakers and case studies, through labeling on forced air warming devices and through other targeted efforts.

V. Doreen Wagner, RN, MSN, CNOR, a risk management claims specialist with WellStar Health System in Marietta, GA, says she has seen the negative effects of this dangerous practice. "This is not a common practice among clinicians; however, it does occur and patients have been severely injured," she says. "My hope is that clinicians will realize the potential dangers of hosing and will work toward curbing this practice in their institutions."

Wagner has educated clinicians about hosing through presentations and articles on the subject. Forced air warming devices are typically used in surgery, trauma and emergency situations to keep patients warm and to bring patients’ body temperature back to normal.

When used properly, forced air warming is not only safe, but it can be the most effective way to treat surgical hypothermia. Forced air warming prevents mild hypothermia — a core temperature between 33 degrees C and 36 degrees C — which is a common event during anesthesia.

For more information on hosing and how to stop it, contact Augustine Medical at (800) 733-7775.