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More than 4,000 people who came down with serious infections after joint surgery have sued 3M Co., blaming the Maplewood-based company for selling a warm-air blower that may have deposited infectious bacteria in their incisions during surgery.

Most of the patients developed deep-joint infections after orthopedic surgery. A dozen lawyers spent three days in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis this week debating which expert opinions and computer models should be allowed as evidence if the first cases go to trial early next year, as scheduled.

3M’s Bair Hugger device works by warming air and then blowing it into an inflatable “blanket” draped over a surgical patient, which 3M says is safe and effective. The company says it is in use in more than four of every five U.S. hospitals and has been used in more than 200 million procedures.

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