A routine wisdom teeth removal turned into a devastating nightmare for the family of 17-year-old Sydney Galleger. The Minnesota teen went into cardiac arrest during the extraction and remains in critical condition.
Sydney’s surgery was going well until the end, when her blood pressure spiked and her pulse dropped, according to CBS Minnesota. The oral surgeon immediately performed CPR, and emergency responders arrived within minutes. The teen was rushed to the University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital and put on a ventilator. Fox News later reported that Sydney underwent surgery to relieve swelling in her brain.
On the CaringBridge website, mom Diane Galleger posted, “We want to rewind to Monday where we had our happy, healthy, funny, beautiful 17-year-old daughter.” Her comments left many to presume that Sydney had died. News reports, along with tweets and condolences from friends and classmates, indicated that the teen passed away last Friday, three days after the wisdom teeth procedure.
Diane posted today that Sydney is still able to breathe on her own but meets nine out of the 10 criteria to be considered brain dead so that the organ donor process can be initiated. “She is in very critical condition and of course we are praying for a miracle but we also have to face the reality that the prognosis is not good,” wrote Diane.
The devastated mother thanked all who are reaching out to support Sydney. “All your cards, posters, pictures, hand drawn pictures and stuffed animals adorn her room. Makes it look more friendly than a sterile hospital room and brightens it up.”
Sydney’s is not the first case of cardiac arrest during a wisdom teeth procedure. In March 2013, 24-year-old Marek Lapinski died. In May 2011, 16-year-old Micah Bonzani died two days after suffering cardiac arrest while under anesthesia to have her wisdom teeth removed. Bonzani was born with a heart defect. One month prior, 17-year-old Jenny Olenick went into cardiac arrest during the procedure and passed away 10 days later.
There is a possibility that Sydney had a heart condition that she and her family were not aware of. And as safe as modern oral surgery is, no surgical procedure is without risk. The American Association for Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons advises that cases like Sydney Galleger’s are certainly tragic, but they are rare.
Surgery records from the AAOMS show that the risk of death or brain injury in patients undergoing anesthesia during oral surgery is 1 out of 365,000. So should you be worried? Santa Fe dentist Michael W. Davis, DDS, says yes. “There is no group which monitors morbidity and mortality for dental sedation,” says Dr. Davis, “and a ton of politics are involved.” While the American Dental Association has established guidelines for sedation levels, there is no periodic monitoring of dental sedation providers by regulatory boards.
Dr. Joshua Perlman, a cosmetic dentist in New York City, cautions parents to ask questions well before scheduling oral surgery:
- Determine whether wisdom teeth removal is absolutely necessary for your child. Get a second opinion if necessary.
- Be aware of preexisting health conditions your child has, and review them with your dentist before the surgery.
- Check the track record of the dental facility for any previous instances of severe complications due to dental surgery.
- Monitor your child’s post-surgery recovery for warning signs of a health concern, and seek immediate attention if any issues occur.
- Will someone other than the surgeon be monitoring blood pressure, heart rate and breathing?
- What kind of monitoring equipment is used, and who will be doing the monitoring?
- Does the person administering the surgery or monitoring the vitals have the proper equipment and a plan to respond to emergencies (for example, if the patient stops breathing)?