Beware of Out Patient Procedures

So, a few weeks ago, I got my blood tests and called my gyno to get an appointment to discuss. She answered the phone and told me that her nurse, Alicia, had died suddenly, so she had very restricted hours.

I was so shocked, I started bawling on the spot. I was (and AM) very upset by this news.

I’ve been going to my gyno for years. She is the only Dr I’ve ever liked and who is genuinely interested in me as a person, not just a hooha that needs a probin’. Her nurse and office manager Alicia was a part of the fun atmosphere and I looked forward to seeing them every year. Crazy, right? I actually like my Dr and nurse that much. I was looking forward to sharing my weight loss with Alicia and joking around like we do.

So losing her was shocking to say the least. She was mid 40s, had a husband and kids. TRAGIC.

What happened?

She went in for a simple “out patient” sinus procedure that required general anesthetic. They used propofol. They did not monitor her breathing and she died. Just like that.

Sound familiar? It should. It was what happened to Michael Jackson. And Joan Rivers.

Propofol is a VERY dangerous drug. It is used in these office visit procedures because it dissipates quickly for a fast recovery. HOWEVER, it can also overshoot quite easily and requires a very attentive anesthetist to make sure that the patient’s breathing does not get too slow.

The lesson to be learned from this is to NEVER EVER agree to an “out patient” procedure (read: insurance won’t pay for a proper hospital) that requires anesthetic such as propofol to be used without demanding to see the operating suite. They should have a crash cart. They should have proper monitoring equipment for respiration and blood oxygen. Demand to see your anesthetist’s CV and ask how much experience and training they’ve had. Demand to know the procedures in place for respiratory arrest or other emergencies. IT IS YOUR RIGHT TO ASK THESE QUESTIONS.

Or better: do not have surgery in a Dr’s office. If it’s something you need to be completely out for, then do your damnedest to get admitted to a proper hospital. If Alicia had been in hospital, she would not have died.

Alicia’s death was unnecessary and easily preventable. The anesthetist was inexperienced and did not continue to monitor her after the surgery was done. The office must have been sketchy in general, as several employees quit the day this happened. And YES, the family is suing. DAMN RIGHT.

THIS is why I always preach about taking control of your medical issues. Alicia was a nurse and she didn’t take the time to ask the questions. It happens all the time. It’s a simple procedure, but the anesthetic is not discussed. People tend to be afraid to ask questions or disagree with Drs. DO NOT BE. Be your own advocate. If you’ve got a Dr that won’t answer questions, find another. If your insurance refuses to pay for a hospital procedure, then ASK THE QUESTIONS to ensure your safety. SO MANY Drs do “out patient” surgeries because of insurance pressure. And SO MANY do not have adequate facilities or personnel to handle emergencies. Have someone with you to monitor what’s going on. Any time you’re put under, you should have someone ON SITE with you.

I was not worried about my surgery, as it was in a hospital, but I made out my will just in case. NEVER assume that nothing could go wrong. When you’re dealing with anesthetic, there is much that can go wrong. Be diligent. Don’t be a statistic. Please.