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Teen’s dental surgery death leaves family with questions

Despite the amazing strides of the past several hundred years, there are so many things we still do not know about anesthetics. We have written about this topic on several occasions. Back in March we offered a post on new research getting underway into the possible brain damage from general anesthesia in children younger than 4.

The results of that work aren’t expected for years and so experts say that puts the onus on doctors and parents to do a better job of making sure they are fully aware of the potential risks well in advance of any procedure. Indeed, the experts even caution that if an operation can be put off that parents consider doing that until the findings are in.

What brings this all freshly to mind is a story about the recent death of a high school junior who died after suffering complications during what was supposed to be a routine wisdom teeth extraction. It didn’t happen in Oregon, but it easily could have.

What makes the story particularly sad is that the family of this girl is lacking closure on exactly what happened. The story conveyed by her mother on a CaringBridge web page told of a bright, athletic teenager who showed no sign of having any health problems.

In fact, she wrote that everything with the extraction procedure was going fine until the very end. That’s when the girl’s blood pressure spiked, her pulse plummeted and she suffered cardiac arrest. She died in the hospital about a week later.

It’s not clear from the reports, but it appears the girl was under general anesthetic for the procedure. And there is speculation that perhaps that triggered an unknown heart condition.

Such problems are not uncommon according to one heart specialist. He didn’t treat the girl and refuses to speculate about what happened in her case, but he says he sees heart rhythm issues involving anesthesia a lot.

He says preventing anesthesia-related surgical errors depends on asking the right questions ahead of time. They should include asking what anesthetic will be used, how much of it will be used and whether the facility where it’s being administered is properly equipped for an emergency.

Source:, “Teen dies after ‘simple, common wisdom teeth extraction’,” June 16, 2015