After 1 Death, 15 Infections, Oral Surgeon's License Remains Suspended

November 18, 2016
Joe Hannan

Despite an earlier agreement to improve infection control practices, breaches of protocol at the practice continued, authorities say.

A New Jersey oral surgeon whose practice has been tied to 15 bacterial endocarditis infections and 1 death will remain under suspension until his case goes before an Administrative Law Judge and the New Jersey Board of Dentistry makes a ruling based on that Judge’s report.

The state’s Attorney General’s Office announced the continued suspension of John Vecchione, DDS, in a news release, posted on its website on Thursday.

Between 2012 and 2014, 15 of Dr. Vecchione’s patients came down with endocarditis, according to the Attorney General’s Office. Twelve had to undergo heart surgery. One patient died.

Endocarditis is a serious infection of the heart’s inner lining, the Mayo Clinic says. It typically happens when bacteria from other parts of the body travel through the bloodstream and attach to vulnerable areas of the heart.

“Left untreated, endocarditis can damage or destroy your heart valves and can lead to life-threatening complications,” the Mayo Clinic says.

Endocarditis is typically treated with antibiotics or surgery.

An investigation during the summer revealed that Dr. Vecchione’s practice wasn’t following proper infection control practices, “including failure to use sterile water or sterile saline during surgical procedures, improper handling and storage of multi-does medication vials, non-sterile preparing of instruments, and improper handling and disposal of needles and syringes,” according to the NJ Attorney General, adding that these failures led to the infections.

Dr. Vecchione’s license has been under suspension since August, the Attorney General’s Office said, when the state arrived at his practice unannounced for an inspection. This was the third such inspection in 21 months. During this most recent visit, authorities discovered that lapses in infection control continued at the practice, despite his agreement to address the issues in July.

On July 20, a Department of Health inspection linked the lapses to the endocarditis infections. This link and the findings from the August inspection prompted the Attorney General to initiate court proceedings and the license suspension.

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