Bianca Castro

Dental Work Leads to Heart Attack for North Texas Woman

A trip to the dentist nearly cost a North Texas woman her life.

Susie Lee, of Plano, recalls the day eight years ago her life changed. She suffered a heart attack when she was 24 years old and five months pregnant.

"When it first happens, the chest pain feels like heartburn – the worst heartburn you could ever feel – and then later on, congestion. You can feel it in your vein somehow," Lee said.

She was rushed to the Medical City Plano, where doctors made a startling discovery.

"Dr. Klein basically took her to the (operating room) and very randomly asked her, 'Did you have an operation before?'" said Lee's husband, Wallace Lee.

"She replied, 'Yes.' She had some work two weeks prior to the hospitals," said Dr. Mordecai Klein, interventional cardiologist at Medical City Plano.

Bacteria from a teeth cleaning Lee received at the dentist for a gum infection a few weeks prior led to bacteria entering her bloodstream and infecting her heart.

Klein realized that Lee had suffered bacterial endocarditis, a bacterial infection in the heart, and that a piece of the bacterial growth, called a vegetation, had broken off and blogged the coronary artery.

The chain of events is very rare, he says.

"Bacteria frequently get into the blood stream during dental work, but it's very unusual for it to land on the valve and cause infection," Klein said. "I have never seen anything like this before, and I hope never to see it ever again."

Surgeons removed the growth during emergency surgery, but hours later, the Lees learned their unborn baby did not survive.

While they don't talk much about the loss, and while their experience is extremely rare, they are sharing their story to make others aware of what can happen during dental work.

Now, they focus on the positive, which includes two children the family welcomed after the loss of their first baby.

"It's a life-changing experience, and I always say you have to look at the positive things," Wallace Lee said.

Although a bacterial heart infection from dental work is extremely rare, doctors say it could happen to anyone, and no one is at fault.

They say if you have a history of heart valve issues, you should talk to your doctor before any dental procedure.

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