Arizona dental board considering changes to anesthesia rules after patient deaths

The Arizona State Board of Dental Examiners is considering changes to the state's anesthesia requirements after multiple patient deaths, reported Aug. 18.

Six things to know:

  1. There have been two pediatric patient deaths since 2013, including 2-year-old Zion Gastelum in 2017. Four other children were also taken to the emergency room but survived, the state dental board told
  2. The dental board found five "deviations from the standard of care" by the dental anesthesiologist who treated Gastelum. The anesthesiologist and the dentist who treated the child did not lose their licenses but were required to undergo continuing education.
  3. Arizona dentists are required to get a permit from the state dental board to administer anesthesia and sedation.
  4. Under the proposed changes, dentists who already have a permit in anesthesiology would have to earn a pediatric endorsement to give anesthesia or sedation to anyone under age 8. They would undergo evaluation every two years and would have to administer anesthesia to at least 20 pediatric patients within those two years. 
  5. The board's Anesthesia and Sedation Committee voted Aug. 16 to recommend draft rules to the dental board. Board President Anthony Herro said he would schedule a special meeting within 60 days to discuss the proposed changes. 
  6. Helen Lee, MD, a pediatric anesthesiologist at the University of Illinois Chicago, told the news station that research has shown children ages 2-5 are most at risk. She also said there is no national tracking system for dental patients who require emergency medical treatment after anesthesia or sedation.

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