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Teen Dies During Breast Surgery

Stephanie Kuleba is an 18-year-old high school senior, who was headed to college and then medical school, but felt she needed to be even more perfect

“She was just the kind of girl that everyone loved,” says friend Dayna Merce.. “There was nothing bad about her.”

Her breasts were asymmetrical and she had an inverted areola, so she went to have cosmetic surgery clinic in Boca Raton, Florida. But now she is dead. She died 24 hours after undergoing surgery, the victim of an extremely rare reaction to anesthesia called malignant hyperthermia.

Malignant hyperthermia is a rare life-threatening condition that is triggered by exposure to certain drugs used for general anaesthesia, specifically all volatile anaesthetics, nearly all gas anaesthetics, and all neuromuscular blocking agents, singly or in combination. In susceptible individuals, these drugs can induce a drastic and uncontrolled increase in skeletal muscle oxidative metabolism which overwhelms the body's capacity to supply oxygen, remove carbon dioxide, and regulate body temperature, eventually leading to circulatory collapse and death if untreated.

“This young lady’s death is a tragedy. Our hearts go out to her family. It’s a devastating event,” said Dr. Richard D’Amico, the president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. He added, “this is something that can happen in any surgery, on any part of the body, in any setting.”

D’Amico encountered it once during what should have been routine nasal surgery on a male patient. He said he was lucky; his anesthesiologist immediately recognized the signs of malignant hyperthermia and took remedial action quickly enough to save the man’s life.

“There’s a medication for this that needs to be given very quickly, which was done,” D’Amico said.

Kuleba’s family, who did not wish to be interviewed, has hired an attorney to investigate the death. The doctor who performed the surgery, Dr. Steven Schuster, also declined to comment.

“There’s never no risk,” he said. “Our job is to minimize that risk, and we stay up very late to do that.”


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