Dentist's drill bit left in head for 11 months, lawsuit says

Donna Delgado’s lawyer holds up an inch-long drill bit burr that he says was left behind after her dental surgery was botched in 2008.

STEPHEN J. CODDINGTON | Times

Donna Delgado’s lawyer holds up an inch-long drill bit burr that he says was left behind after her dental surgery was botched in 2008.

TAMPA — Donna Delgado just wasn't healing properly after dental surgery.

There was too much bleeding, too much pain. Her head hurt. She was dizzy. She had nosebleeds and sinus infections.

And with good reason, according to her lawsuit: The surgeon left an inch-long piece of steel in the wound.

Lodged in Delgado's right maxillary sinus, the drill bit burr made the 35-year-old woman miserable for nearly a year as she held down a job and cared for her children, her lawyer said.

She wound up in a hospital, where the medical staff detected the foreign object. She was referred to another hospital for surgery.

"The poor thing," said the lawyer, Anthony Martino. "You don't know how horrible it's been for her."

Reached by phone, the oral surgeon, Ralph Eichstaedt, would not discuss Delgado's treatment or the lawsuit.

"I don't think I have any comment at this time," he said. Nor was there any immediate comment from Dental Health Group, also named in the suit.

Delgado, who declined to be interviewed, first visited the dental office at 1060 W Busch Blvd. in August 2008, according to the suit.

Eichstaedt, who has since stopped practicing there, recommended pulling two decayed teeth, the suit said. Delgado returned two weeks later for the procedure.

Eichstaedt used the burr to separate the teeth and make the extraction easier, Martino said. Somewhere along the line, the burr became detached and lost.

A simple X-ray during a followup visit would have detected the metal piece, Martino said.

Instead, he alleges, Delgado was sent away repeatedly.

A nurse for an insurance company, Delgado had premium dental coverage, he said.

It didn't matter.

"She was discharged, and they said, 'Get over it,' " he said. "When she went back to complain, they kept saying, 'This is normal,' and 'Stop complaining.' "

According to the lawsuit, which asks for unspecified damages and a jury trial, Delgado was experiencing dizziness and numbness on her right side, where the burr was.

Concerned about the numbness, she was taken for emergency treatment at St. Joseph's Hospital on July 13, 2009.

Not knowing about the burr, doctors performed a magnetic scan that caused the object to move inside her head, Martino said.

"She was in excruciating pain," he said, adding that the shifting of the burr could have killed her.

Doctors debated whether it would be safe to remove the object, but Dr. Dennis Agliano, an ear-nose-and-throat specialist, said it must come out.

He removed it on Aug. 27.

Delgado still has not fully recovered from the effects of the incident, which could include nickel poisoning, Martino said.

Times staff writer Erin Sullivan contributed to this report. Marlene Sokol can be reached at (813) 909-4602 or sokol@sptimes.com.

Dentist's drill bit left in head for 11 months, lawsuit says 01/26/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 27, 2010 10:11am]

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