Usually genetic and very difficult to detect, the condition [malignant hyperthermia] causes the body temperature to spike as high as 112 degrees and salts to precipitate out of the blood. If the reaction is not recognized almost immediately and an antidote given, it is fatal.
Dr. Richard D’Amico, the president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, told TODAY’s Matt Lauer on Wednesday that what happened to [Miss] Kuleba could happen to anyone.
“This young lady’s death is a tragedy. Our hearts go out to her family. It’s a devastating event,” he said. But, he added, “this is something that can happen in any surgery, on any part of the body, in any setting.”
D’Amico encountered it once during what should have been routine nasal surgery on a male patient. He said he was lucky; his anesthesiologist immediately recognized the signs of malignant hyperthermia and took remedial action quickly enough to save the man’s life.
“There’s a medication for this that needs to be given very quickly, which was done,” D’Amico said.
The problem is that there’s no easy way to identify people who are at risk of the syndrome.