Recent news about Joan Rivers’s death during a routine endoscopy has caused concern among the public. The 81-year-old comedienne passed away a week after going into cardiac arrest during an endoscopic procedure, in which a tiny camera is passed into the esophagus, stomach and intestines to diagnose and treat conditions of the gastrointestinal system.
Although the cause of her death has not yet been determined, the media has focused on anesthesia and her age as a possibility for complications. In a recent interview with KFI radio, Allied Anesthesia physician Dr. Paul Yost, president of the California Society of Anesthesiologists, explained that the risk factors of anesthesia are more complex than just age. He confirmed that a patient’s age is not the sole factor when considering risk, but in fact, other medical conditions and overall health are more significant considerations.
Anesthesiologists take careful measures when preparing patients for procedures. It is critical to address the individual needs of every patient. If an older patient is in good health, his needs will differ greatly from those of a younger patient with serious medical conditions. A physician anesthesiologist should always be the one to administer anesthesia, and be present during any procedure in case of emergency.
Dr. Greg Perkins, chairman of St. Joseph Hospital in Orange and member of Allied Anesthesia, and Dr. Yost agree that the best thing a patient can do, regardless of age or health, is follow the doctor’s instructions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the risks, fasting prior to the procedure or medications that are safe to take. Actively working with your physician and following directions throughout any procedure helps ensure a speedy recovery.
Dr. Yost’s interview with KFI can be heard in its entirety at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VGJOw24opMY