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The Anesthesiologist in Joan Rivers's Fatal Endoscopy Revealed

Renuka Reddy Bankulla, MD, no longer works at Yorkville Endoscopy.

Published: January 5, 2015

Turns out there was an anesthesiologist present during the Joan Rivers case at Yorkville Endoscopy, and her name, according to a report in the New York Post, is Renuka Reddy Bankulla, MD.

Many had presumed that there wasn't an anesthetist of any kind in the room during the throat procedures on Aug. 28 that led to the death of the 81-year-old comedian, who was suffering from a worsening raspy voice. For one, the gastroenterologist and then medical director of the endoscopy clinic, Lawrence Cohen, MD, was a well-known proponent of nurse-administered propofol. Second, Dr. Cohen and celebrity ear, nose and throat specialist Gwen Korovin, MD, have both been identified publicly, but there was never any hint that a third doctor was in the room.

A key question in the case of Mr. Rivers was how much propofol she received during the 3 throat procedures: a nasal laryngoscopy, an EGD to evaluate the severity of her GI reflux and a repeat nasal laryngoscopy following the EGD. While the medication administration record states that a total of 300 mg of propofol was given, which many would describe as an excessive dose for a petite 81-year-old patient, Dr. Bankulla allegedly told CMS surveyors that she actually gave Ms. Rivers only 120 mg of propofol. The reason for the discrepancy: Dr. Bankulla says that she had mistakenly double-clicked on computerized records. One troubling oversight investigators found: Dr. Bankulla failed to record Ms. Rivers's weight, which is critical to determining how much anesthesia to administer.

CMS investigators concluded that "The physicians in charge of the care of the patient failed to identify deteriorating vital signs and provide timely intervention during the procedure." When investigators reportedly tried to question Dr. Bankulla, identified in the federal report her as "Staff #2," about Ms. Rivers's treatment, she declined to cooperate. Dr. Bankulla had said "she was advised by counsel not to discuss the case at this time," according to the report.

Dr. Bankulla, 47, a board-certified anesthesiologist from New Rochelle, N.Y., no longer works at Yorkville Endoscopy, according to reports. State records show that Dr. Bankulla got her MD in 1991 from Gandhi Medical College in Hyderabad, India. She trained at Flushing Hospital and Beth Israel Medical Center. Efforts to reach her and her attorney for comment were unsuccessful.

Dan O'Connor


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