Thursday, January 9, 2020

Anesthesia Team Not Paying Attention Leads To Brain Damaged Teen

Anesthesiology is an amazing profession. That's why it was voted the most important development in medicine in the last 150 years by the New England Journal of Medicine. Despite all the slings and arrows aimed at anesthesiologists from insurance companies and the government, it continues to be one of the highest paying professions in the country. As the American Society of Anesthesiologists gears up to celebrate the annual Physician Anesthesiologists Week, let's never forget how quickly our patients can suffer when we don't maintain constant vigilance.

This is the sad story of a healthy eighteen year old girl who went in for cosmetic surgery and wound up brain damaged for life. Emmelyn Nguyen of Thornton, Colorado was getting breast augmentation when supposedly the plastic surgeon, Dr. Geoffrey Kim, and the CRNA, Rex Meeker, left the operating room with the patient unattended for fifteen minutes. When they returned, they realized that Emmelyn had been hypoxic and in cardiac arrest. They performed CPR and were able to get her circulation back, but not before she had suffered permanent brain injury.

The family says she is now in a persistent vegetative state. She is unable to feed herself and only responds to pain. She requires 24 hours constant care. Emmelyn had saved up $6000 for her dream procedure. Dr. Kim reimbursed the family the $6000 about a month after the incident. Somehow I don't think it's the money that the family is angry about. As the ASA motto goes, "when seconds count". When fifteen minutes pass without any monitoring, those seconds turn into a lifetime of heartache and suffering.

A reader pointed out an error in my original post. Dr. Kim was the surgeon, not an anesthesiologist. I have changed my post to reflect that.


  1. 2 words..JOAN RIVERS.
    or where you still in Junior high, Poodles?

  2. There is no difference in patient outcomes between CRNA care and MDA care. A review of closed claim data will support this. Any other assertion is not based in fact.

  3. There are Plenty of tragedies that have occurred with physician anesthesiologists only. This is a very sad case but we don’t know the whole story. there have been plenty of cases of preventable things prefers by by AAs, CRNAs and MD/DO. So do not pick one case and say it was because there was no Physician Anesthesiologist; evidence by proclamation and generalization is not factual (Ie not evidence).

  4. This post is not about MD vs CRNA. It’s about staying vigilant and always be a patient’s advocate. Originally I thought it was a team of an anesthesiologist supervising a CRNA and I laid the blame equally on both. That it turned out to be a CRNA alone does not negate the message of staying vigilant.

  5. A cheap shot indeed against Nurse Anesthesiologists. Agreed the closed claim data shows no difference in outcomes. Everyone needs to be more viligent in the care provided to patients

    1. Ha, Todd clearly can't read that this article had nothing to do with cheap shots. Also Todd, know what they are... NURSE ANESTHETIST. An anesthesiologist is someone who took the time to go to medical school and go through residency to become an anesthesiologist.