The plaintiff’s autistic child presented to the defendant dentist for a routine checkup and to fill a small cavity in August. The defendant administered a local anesthetic into the child’s gum. As she did so, the child suddenly jerked his head, causing the needle to break off. The defendant attempted to remove the broken needle, but was unable to do so. The child was sent to the local emergency room, where physicians were also unable to remove the needle.
Two months later, the child had surgery to remove his wisdom teeth. His surgeon also attempted to locate and remove the needle, but was unsuccessful.
Over the next several months, the child allegedly began to show increased behavioral problems, and became increasingly irritable, sad, and depressed.
Around mid-June of the following year, the child complained of pain and would not eat or drink. He was taken to his treating physician’s office where he underwent a strep test and later underwent x-rays of his head and neck area. It was then that the needle was discovered in the child’s throat, extremely close to his jugular vein.
The needle was surgically removed at the beginning of July, almost a year after the incident at the checkup appointment.
During the trial, the plaintiff’s dental expert witness criticized the defendant for using a 30-guage short needle rather than a 27-guage long needle to inject the local anesthetic. The defendant’s expert in dentistry asserted that it was appropriate to use a 30-guage needle among pediatric patients, and that a 27-guage needle might also have broken under the same circumstances.
The jury returned a defense verdict.
With permission from Medical Malpractice Verdicts, Settlements & Experts; Lewis Laska, Editor, 901 Church St., Nashville, TN 37203-3411, 1-800-298-6288.