The Dangers of Procedural Sedation

ByABC News
September 25, 2006, 4:26 PM

Sept. 28, 2006 — -- How much are we willing to risk for more comfort and less anxiety when we undergo routine medical procedures at the dentist's or doctor's, or when we visit hospital emergency rooms?

That question surfaces after a 5-year-old Chicago girl, Diamond Brownridge, died Thursday after she fell into a coma after being sedated for a routine dental procedure last weekend.

Diamond's mother, Ommettress Travis, reportedly said that her daughter received an oral sedative, an IV sedative and nitrous oxide gas at a Chicago dental clinic. The mother was asked to leave the room during the treatment, and when she returned a half hour later, she found her daughter lying on her side in the chair. Diamond wasn't breathing, she claims. She was taken to a local hospital and put on life support, where she remained for five days before she died.

The dentist, who has not been charged.

This is a tragic example of what can go wrong with a practice called procedural sedation, which is intended to remove some of the discomfort and anxiety surrounding routine medical and dental procedures.

In emergency rooms, doctors often use procedural sedation when they align broken bones or sew up wounds in children, for example. Dentists use it in many of their routine procedures, such as the ones Diamond recently had done.

"Procedural sedation can make an ER or dental experience much better," said Dr. Roger Humphries, chairman of emergency medicine at the University of Kentucky Hospital in Lexington.

He said that procedures that were once performed in the operating room can now often be done in doctors' offices and emergency rooms, which saves time, money and hospital resources.