A curious case of ‘lost’ dentures after surgery
Thursday, October 03, 2019
If you’re scheduled to have surgery, there are lots of things you’re likely thinking about. From the seriousness of the procedure and recovery time to hospital bills and who will take care of your home and loved ones while you’re recovering, there is no shortage of things to plan for.
But one thing you may not have put on your list of items to take care of? Taking out your dentures before going under anesthesia.
According to a new report, one 72-year-old man who had abdominal surgery in England actually swallowed (yes, swallowed!) his dentures during a procedure. They got stuck in his throat and were discovered eight days later.
The initial procedure the man was admitted for was to remove a benign lump in his abdominal wall. But because of the denture issue, he was experiencing severe pain, bleeding and swallowing difficulties. The man endured repeated hospital visits over the course of several weeks, additional invasive tests and blood transfusions before the discovery was made.
He also required two additional operations.
False teeth or dental plates present in patients should be clearly documented before and after any surgery, said Dr. Harriet Cunniffe, lead author of a case study on the elderly patient's ordeal. Dr. Cunniffe is an ear, nose and throat specialist with James Paget University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in Great Yarmouth, England.
According to reports, six days after the man’s surgery, he was transported to the emergency department of a local hospital. But doctors there concluded that the bleeding in his mouth, swallowing difficulties and pain were due to a respiratory infection and side effects from having a tube down his throat during surgery.
He was prescribed mouthwash, antibiotics and steroids, and sent home. Two days later, he returned to the emergency department with worsening symptoms. He told doctors he hadn't been able to swallow any of his prescribed medicines.
At this point, he was readmitted to the hospital. Tests revealed a semi-circular object resting across his vocal cords that was the cause of the internal swelling and blistering. When the discovery was made, the man said that his dentures were lost during his previous hospital stay for his abdominal surgery.
Doctors operated to remove the dentures and kept him hospitalized for six days. However, he returned a number of times over the next few weeks because of bleeding. Doctors eventually determined that the bleeding was due to internal wound tissue around the blistering caused by his false teeth. They cauterized the tissue to prevent further bleeding.
But the hospital still hadn't seen the last of him. He returned nine days later with more bleeding caused by a torn artery in the wound. At that time, emergency surgery was scheduled.
Over the next six weeks, however, his tissue healed, he did not require any more emergency care, and his blood count returned to normal.
This isn't the first documented case of dentures being inhaled while a patient is under general anesthetic.
In the United Kingdom, there are no national guidelines on how dentures should be managed during anesthesia, although this may change in light of this most recent case. In the U.S., The American Dental Association offers guidelines for how dentures are to be handled for surgeries.
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