ABC News Radio, May 6, 2011

Brooklyn Toddler Dies After Circumcision

(NEW YORK) -- New York City's Office of the Chief Medical Examiner is investigating the death of two-year-old Jamaal Coleson, Jr. following a circumcision Tuesday at Manhattan's Beth Israel Medical Center.

"They gave him anesthesia, and after the circumcision he woke up he was fine," said Jabbar Coleson, Jamaal Jr.'s uncle, who lives in Jonesboro, Ga. "He asked to eat, he asked for something to drink, and then he started complaining about pain in his stomach."

Jabbar said his nephew was in the outpatient ward when doctors noticed something was wrong. But four hours passed before the toddler was rushed to the emergency room, he said. The case, which has been reported as an accidental death to the New York State Department of Health, highlights the extremely rare complications of the procedure performed widely throughout the United States.

"Circumcision is a surgical procedure and so with that there are certain risks, although the risks are quite small," said Dr. Ari Brown, a pediatrician in Austin, Texas, and author of Baby 411.

The most common complications are local infections and bleeding, but Brown says the risks are about one in 1,000 and one in 3,000 respectively. In infants, circumcision is done using local anesthesia -- a numbing cream or an injection into the skin. But the general anesthesia used for older children, like Jamaal Jr., can increase the risk of complications.

"The risk is still low, but it's higher than with local anesthesia," Brown said, adding that in extremely rare cases people can be allergic to an anesthetic.

Beth Israel Medical Center staff will conduct an internal review of the events the led to Jamaal Jr.'s death, the hospital said in a statement. A spokeswoman for the medical examiner's office said the cause of death would be released in two weeks, following standard tissue and toxicology tests.

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(File created 10 May 2011)