Patient's death prompts North Carolina Dental Board to consider anesthesia changes

The death of a Wilmington, N.C., cardiologist during a dental procedure has prompted the North Carolina Dental Board to consider changes to sedation protocols, according to a Feb. 3 WECT News 6 article.

Dr. Henry Patel, 53, died in August 2020, after anesthesia complications during a dental implant. He was one of six people in North Carolina who had an anesthesia-related death in a dental office in the last eight years, according to a Feb. 4 CBS 17 article.

The North Carolina Dental Board met Feb. 3 to discuss possible changes to sedation protocols.

A key point of debate was whether a separate anesthesiologist should be present to administer and monitor anesthesia.

The American Dental Association guidelines state that a dentist or an appropriately trained person must be present during operations requiring anesthesia and monitor the patient until discharge to the recovery area. It doesn't say that a separate anesthesiologist must be present.

"There is no scientific evidence to support that the proposed rule change would enhance patient safety or decrease adverse events occurring in the administering of sedation for dental care," Alec Parker, DDS, executive director of the North Carolina Dental Society stated. "If the rule is passed, there would be increased costs of a separate dental anesthesia provider, and the supply of medical and dental anesthesiologists and [Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists] is not sufficient to meet the need in North Carolina, particularly in rural areas."

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