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Man dies after having wisdom teeth removed

Nadine Kalinauskas
Shine On
April 4, 2013

On March 21, Marek Lapinski, a 24-year-old software developer from San Diego, had his wisdom teeth removed.

He died three days later.

Now his family wants answers regarding his medial care during the procedure.

"He was so scared to get this done," Lapinski's sister Natalie tells Fox 5. "That morning he texted me and said, I'm going in. I’ll call you when I’m out.' I never heard from him again."

According to a patient care report released by the American Medical Response, Lapinski woke up coughing during the surgery performed by oral surgeon Dr. Steven Paul in Temecula, California — and was then given Propofol, the powerful anaesthetic linked to Michael Jackson's death.

"When he coughed they administered Propofol and that’s when he went into cardiac arrest," claims Lapinski's mother, April.

His condition deteriorated quickly and he was taken to Rancho Springs Medical Center in Murrietaon and later transferred to UCLA Medical Center where he died on March 24.

The ambulance report indicates that a piece of gauze was found lodged in Lapinski's airway.

"I was told by the hospital they weren’t sure if this was all caused from him choking on a piece of gauze," April tells Fox 5. "Somebody was not paying attention at some point."

Natalie, a nurse, believes her brother was given too much anaesthesia. His medical records list six different sedatives given Lapinski by his surgeon. Natalie suggests his records also indicate he may have been without oxygen for 10 minutes.

"The pulmonary doctor at the hospital told me it looked like an overdose to him," April says. "He had no health issues we were aware of. This was very strange and unexpected."

Paul visited Lapinski's family in hospital to apologize for what happened, but they claim he gave no explanation for the tragedy.

Paul's lawyer released a statement that claims that "all standard protocols were followed."

"What's most shocking is the healthy 24-year-old goes in for an operation as routine as having his wisdom teeth removed and dies in the process," Tony Keiser, a friend of the Lapinski family, tells ABCNews.com. "It's inconceivable."

The Los Angeles County Coroner's Office has scheduled an autopsy for later today.

Lapinski's family has set up a webpage in his honour.

Sadly, this isn't the first oral surgery gone wrong to make headlines.

In July 2007, Montreal teen Leejay Levene lost all vital signs after the anaesthesiologist sedated him before oral surgery.

In April 2011, Jenny Olenick, 17, of Maryland, died from complications during the procedure. The state's chief medical examiner ruled the cause of Olenick's death to be hypoxia: oxygen deprivation while she was anaesthetized.

In December 2011, 14-year-old Ben Ellis of Georgia died the day after having his wisdom teeth removed.

And more recently, a 4-year-old girl in Manitoba suffered brain damage from dental surgery after going into anaesthetic-related cardiac arrest half an hour into the procedure.

A recent study showed that anaesthesia death rates have dropped dramatically over the past five decades, by as much as 90 per cent.

A 1997 study of Ontario mortality rates in dentistry looked at 2,830,000 cases involving general anaesthesia or deep sedation from 1973 to 1995.

"Over this time period there were four deaths associated with cases in which either an oral and maxillofacial surgeon or dental anaesthetist administered the general anaesthetic or deep sedation, yielding a mortality rate of 1.4 per 1,000,000," the authors conclude.

While the risks may have decreased even further since then, they're still important to discuss with your anaesthetist before undergoing surgery.

According to Alberta's Dental Surgery Group, adverse effects and serious complications are "very rare."

"However, any operation or anaesthetic carries some risks, which depend on the overall health of the patient," they say.

"Since the specific risks vary with each patient, you should ask your anesthetist what risks your family member may face."

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