On September 4th, the world of comedy lost one its most beloved queens, when Joan Rivers passed away. Now, almost six weeks later, the official medical examination is reporting that Rivers' death was the result of traumatic injury to the brain. According to a CNN report, the 81 year old comedian died from “therapeutic complications” following a medical throat procedure. The New York Chief Medical Examiner is reportedly listing the cause of death as anoxic encephalopathy, a type of brain damage that occurs when the brain is deprived of oxygen. In the official statement, the examiner defines the events as “a predictable complication of medical therapy.”
Lack of Oxygen to the Brain
Oxygen is vital to the functions of the brain. After only takes four minutes without oxygen, brain cells begin to die. This is defined as hypoxia. According to Mount Sinai Hospital, it can occur in two ways, including:
*The blood flow to the brain is either blocked or slowed. This often happens as a result of stroke, blood clots or heart attacks.
* There is normal blood flow, but an inadequate amount of oxygen is in the blood. This may occur as a result of:
1. Lung disease
2. At high altitudes, where there is a lack of oxygen in the air
3. Exposure to certain toxins, like carbon dioxide, can lead to hypoxia
4. An event that impedes normal breathing, such as drowning or choking.
Hypoxia can progress at various rates. The symptoms for mild to moderate hypoxia include headaches, poor coordination and an inability to concentrate. If the condition is diagnosed and treated in time, long term injury is avoidable. Severe hypoxia occurs rapidly, resulting in a traumatic brain injury or death.
For Rivers, the medical complications started during a laryngoscopy, which is reportedly a routine throat procedure. CNN reports that her vocal chords began to swell, which began to diminish the flow of oxygen within her body. Pathologist Bill Loyd is quoted in the article as stating, "She stopped breathing and her heart went into arrhythmia because there wasn't sufficient oxygen to maintain the heart muscle... The pump, the heart itself, was unable to move fresh oxygenated blood upstream to the brain." While the hypoxia started from the vocal cord complications, it progressed quickly when her heart stopped beating. The resulting anoxic encephalopathy ultimately caused her death.
Prevention and Treatment
Mount Sinai Hospital advises that the risk of anoxic encephalopathy can be lessened by taking certain steps:
-Learning to Swim
-Chewing food completely and properly
-Installing and maintaining carbon monoxide detectors
-Avoiding exposure to high voltage electricity sources
However, the condition may also result from the actions of a physician. According to recent reports, the medical center where Rivers was treated is currently under investigation and may ultimately shut down if wrong-doing is found. For incidents where malpractice is proven, the responsible party should be held financially responsible for the pain and suffering of the victim.
If you or a loved one suffered anoxic encephalopathy at the hands of a treating physician, contact the experienced attorneys of Levin & Perconti at (312) 332-2872 for a free consultation. These knowledgeable attorneys will aggressively work to secure the compensation to which you are entitled.
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