Sunday, January 15, 2012

Six-Year-Old Suffers Cardiac Arrest During Tragic Dental Procedure by James Parrish

Kids now have a reason to hate the dentist trips. Crystal Lewis of Richmond, Virginia, never expected the trouble that was to come when she brought her son in to the Virginia Commonwealth University dental clinic on Tuesday, May 11.

Lewis brought her son, six-year-old Jacobi Hill, to the VCU clinic to get several teeth capped. According to Hill's family, his pediatrician had okay'd him for sedation. When a breathing tube was removed, Hill suffered a cardiac arrest. He was rushed to the VCU Medical Center, however staff were unable to revive him.

While VCU declines to give interviews, a spokesperson released the following statement: "Virginia Commonwealth University wants to understand what happened in connection with the tragic event involving a pediatric patient. Our internal investigation continues, and we are awaiting the results of the autopsy conducted by the Virginia Office of the Medical Examiner. We have been in contact with the patient’s family, and will continue to be available to them. VCU complies with requirements governing the administration of general anesthesia during dental procedures, and professional emergency care is immediately available in our dental clinics and facilities."

One week later, however, Crystal Lewis is still trying to find answers. She said that her older son, Keyon Hill, had the same procedure earlier this year with no complications.

While all sedation carries risks, the levels of dental sedation vary by which procedures are being performed and how much the patient moves.

"It's used thousands of times every day," said Indru Punwani, a spokesman for the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.

Dr. Robert Campbell, a pediatric oral surgeon at Virginia Dental and Anesthesia Associates, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that the most common cause of death in dental offices under anesthesia is related to an airway condition.

In the upper airway, "the most common problem is that the vocal cords go into a spasm and shut down," said Campbell. He states this upper airway problem could possibly be related to an allergic reaction. The next most common issue would involve the lower airway, in an asthma-like attack.

Though the autopsy was performed Thursday, the state medical examiner's office told the media it could take weeks to determine the cause and manner of death. The Virginia Medicaid Agency is currently investigating the death as well.

This is a truly unfortunate and tragic accident. Our thoughts are with the Lewis family as they work through the complexities of the investigations into Hill’s death.

Copyright (c) 2010 James Parrish