In what now seems to be a common scenario, authorities are reporting that patients may have been exposed to contaminated syringes at a local dentist’s office. A dentist with offices in Highlands Ranch and Cherry Creek reused sedation syringes on patients for nearly 12 years. State health officials who are asking thousands of his surgical patients to get tested for HIV and hepatitis.
State officials said Dr. Stephen Stein hasn’t practiced since June 2011, and another oral surgeon not accused of any wrongdoing took over the office. State officials said they do not believe there are risks to Stein patients who received only local, oral anesthetic shots.
And no infections have been reported so far, report officials said. In addition to seeking potential victims by going public with information about the syringes, the state is sending letters to patients who may have received IV sedation from a reused syringe. The state is reviewing at least 8,000 patient records.
The focus now is on patients who received IV medications for sedation from September 1999 to June 2011. Those who are unsure whether they received IV medication should get tested anyway, the department said; those who are sure they did not receive an IV do not need to be tested.
Patients have begun searching for help getting testing. Concerned patients should contact their health provider and seek tests for HIV antibody, hepatitis C antibody, and hepatitis B surface antigen and hepatitis B core antibody. The state coordinated with county health departments and others to be ready for a surge of questions and patient contacts once Stein’s case became known.
Officials said they are still not sure whether patients who saw Stein before 1999 or at other locations are at risk. Stein entered into a cessation of practice agreement with the state dental examiners board June 24, 2011.
The public notice about the needles and syringes is reminiscent of 2009 hepatitis C infections at Rose Medical Center, where surgery assistant Kristen Parker infected 18 patients by stealing sedation drugs and putting dirty needles back onto anesthesia trays.
But there is as yet no infected patient identified who might have infected others through one of the reused needles or syringes. Any cases would be patient-to-patient transmission, whereas in Parker’s case a known infected employee could be matched genetically to victims.