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Questions About Teen Death Due to Anesthesia
March 26, 2008

She was a pretty, popular, high school cheerleader from Boca Raton Florida.

18-year-old Stephanie Kuleba was going to have breast augmentation surgery to correct asymetrical breasts and an inverted aerola.

But the West Boca High School senior died after having complication from anesthesia given during her surgery.

The questions now is whether this death could have been prevented by proper screening prior to surgery or by adequate intervention at the surgical clinic.

Right now, attorney Roberto Stanziale tells IB News, the family is planning her funeral. Here is what they know so far:

"She went in for the surgery at 8:05 in the morning, by 9:45, an hour and 40 minutes later, the paramedics had been called and she had been rushed to Delray Medical Center where, basically, 24 hours later, she died,"said Stanziale.

Doctors believe the cause of death was malignant hyperthermia, MH, a rare genetic disorder that can be triggered by anesthesia in sensitive people.

There is no simple test to determine if one has MH. Most reactions are found in children and young adults.

In those individuals, general anaesthesia can induce an increase in body temperature above 110 degrees as the body is unable to supply oxygen and remove carbon dioxide.

Eventually there is circulatory collapse and death can follow if the antidote dantrolene, a muscle relaxer, is not given immediately. Dantrolene sodium, is still the only recognized treatment for an MH crisis.

The Kuleba's family attorney says he will determine if the antidote was available in this outpatient clinic as part of the professional accreditation requirements.

The Malignant Hyperthermia Association of the United States says there is a preoperative evaluation and screening for those at risk and Stanziale tells IB News that Stephanie did meet with the anesthesiologist prior to surgery.

"We don't have the medical records yet" he says, "so whether any further evaluation was done prior to surgery should be in the records. The family says that they met with the anesthesiologist and he asked her if she had anything to eat and whether she had anesthesia before," Stanziale says.

Her board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Stephen Schuster said in a statement, "I am devastated by the loss and I feel for the family."

The blonde teen was going to study medicine, ironically plastic surgery, at the University of Florida. Instead Sunday night she was remembered at the high school where students held a candlelight vigil.

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons indicates that more teens than ever are having cosmetic breast surgery. Some are given surgery as a gift from parents.

The Society reports that nearly 348,000 breast augmentations were performed last year up 64 percent from 2000.

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