The unexpected death of Joan Rivers at 81 years of age occurred during a routine outpatient procedure at an accredited doctor-owned surgery center. Although there are few confirmed reports of what actually occurred, what we do know is that media-fed information can resonate amongst the general public -- and our patients. Concerns have been raised about the outpatient setting, patient selection, and types of surgeries that are performed. As a result, the responsibility ...

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The outrageous $117,000 bill from an assistant surgeon Recently, I wondered why Medicare could not control its costs using the investigative power of the federal government instead of releasing physician payment data and relying on journalists to do the work. Two stories that appeared within days of each other raise a similar question about the private insurance industry's methods. An article in Modern Healthcare described the impending closure of ...

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Joan Rivers death: What went wrong? The ear, nose and throat specialist who treated comedian Joan Rivers on August 28 has been identified as Dr. Gwen Korovin, a prominent New York physician who is known as a voice doctor to many entertainers and Broadway stars including Hugh Jackman and Julie Andrews. With a physician who is an expert in airway anatomy at her side, and all the technologic advantages ...

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Part 2 of a series. Read part 1. I realized I was entering into a process the rules of which were entirely separate from normal human interaction when it hit me that news of the lawsuit was in the newspaper before anyone had had the decency to contact me. What kind of people act like that? Civilized behavior, respectfulness -- in short, all the ways in which you'd think nice ...

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“Mr. Jones’ chest x-ray looks normal,” the intern said to me on morning rounds. Mr. Jones just had a transhiatal esophagectomy (THE).  The esophagus is the muscular tube that connects the back of one’s throat to their stomach.  It can develop cancer or become completely dysfunctional because of benign processes, and therefore need to be removed. A THE involves cutting out the patient’s esophagus, in Mr. Jones’ case for cancer, bringing the stomach up ...

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The astronauts are halfway to Mars when suddenly one of them develops abdominal pain and requires surgery. What will they do? According to NASA, a miniature robot capable of assisting in surgery has been developed, tested in pigs, and is soon to be trialed in a weightless environment. The robot, which weighs less than 1 pound, can be inserted into the abdomen via the umbilicus and controlled remotely. The press release from ...

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Risk-adjusted 30- to 90-day outcome data for selected types of operations done by specific surgeons and hospitals are now being publicly posted online by England's National Health Service. According to the site, "Any hospital or consultant [attending surgeon in the UK] identified as an outlier will be investigated and action taken to improve data quality and/or patient care." After cardiac surgery outcomes data were made public in New York, some interesting unexpected ...

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Joan Rivers: Pushing the limits of outpatient care There are minor operations and procedures, but there are no minor anesthetics.  This could turn out to be the one lesson learned from the ongoing investigation into the death of comedian Joan Rivers. Ms. Rivers’ funeral was held on September 7.  Like so many of her fans, I appreciated her quick wit as she entertained us for decades, poking fun at herself and ...

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Taking lawsuits personally: A surgeons first malpractice case Part 1 of a series. In all my years of practice, my dad called me at the office only twice. The second was to inform me of a horrible family tragedy. The first -- well, I guess in a small way you could say it was the same. "I hear you joined the club," he said. "What?" I had no idea what he was talking about. I'd ...

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A few years ago, as I prepared for neurosurgery, a nurse who worked there told me, “Spend as little time in the hospital as possible, because the longer you stay, the more likely you are to get sick.” In a way, that statement seemed quite telling of what was to come for me and an indicator cost of care -- the added cost of additional care, additional hospitalizations, and the additional ...

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