New Jersey

New Jersey Dentist Agrees to Suspension After 15 Patients Get Sick, 1 Dies

What to Know

  • Dr. John Vecchione has agreed to a five-year suspension; he was linked to 15 cases of bacterial infection of the heart. A patient died
  • Vecchione also agreed to pay $293,500 in penalties; he initially fought the allegations
  • The two-year probe by the state Health Department and Dentistry Board into sanitation at Vecchione's practice began after a 25-year-old got a heart infection a month after having wisdom teeth pulled

A New Jersey oral surgeon linked to 15 cases of a bacterial infection of the heart over the last few years, including one case that led to death due to surgery complications, has agreed to a five-year suspension.

Dr. John Vecchione on Monday also agreed to pay $293,500 in penalties. He initially had fought the allegations.

The suspension comes after NBC 4 New York reported a state Health Department investigation into the rash of infections linked to Vecchione's outpatient surgery clinics in Mt. Olive and Parsippany.

The two-year investigation by the state Health Department and Dentistry Board into sanitation at Vecchione's practice began after Jefferson Township's Ryan Del Grosso was diagnosed with the heart infection endocarditis about five weeks after having two wisdom teeth pulled.

A doctor treating Del Grosso, now 25, at Morristown Medical Center remembered a similar case of the rare disease and notified state officials.

Health investigators identified three cases, all following surgery from the same practice, and later searched records of other patients from 2013 and 2014. The records revealed that 15 patients had been infected, likely caused during the use of IVs to sedate patients before surgery.

"Dr. Vecchione spent years denying any responsibility for the infections contracted by patients in his care,” Howard Pine, acting director of the division of consumer affairs, said Monday.

Vecchione engaged in “professional misconduct and gross negligence” by failing to follow infection control protocols, state officials said. The state alleged the Budd Lake dentist failed to use sterile water or sterile saline during surgical procedures, improperly handled and stored single dose medication vials and did not properly prepare instruments.

The suspension is retroactive to Aug. 31, 2016, when Vecchione agreed to a temporary suspension of his license. That means Vecchione will be permitted to start his one-year probationary period as early as Aug 31 of this year if he complies with terms of the consent order and demonstrates his fitness and competency to resume practice, the state said.

Copyright NBC New York/Associated Press
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