Constance Nenni died after having a "phantom" knee surgery, according to a legal complaint filed against her orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Spyros Panos.
In March 2010, Nenni underwent surgery to repair a left knee that had grown arthritic from 76 years of wear and tear, her daughter Debra Nenni McNamee said. She died less than 24 hours after having surgery.
McNamee said she recalled Panos explaining the procedure as "a simple in and out." He asked her mother sign a consent form to have a scope with a camera surgically inserted in her knee and to remove any dead or damaged tissue he found. Then, McNamee said she sat for two hours in the waiting room of the Hudson Valley Center at Saint Francis Hospital in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., waiting for her mother to come out of surgery.
"Afterwards, a nurse came out and said that my mother's blood pressure had dropped so they had to put her under a heating blanket for a while, but she didn't seem concerned so I relaxed," she said.
Less than 24 hours later, Nenni collapsed and died at home on the bathroom floor of a pulmonary embolism, according to a medical examiner's report.
A pulmonary embolism is a dangerous side effect of surgery where a blood clot breaks free and blocks the lung's main artery. Older people are especially vulnerable to this risk. Although McNamee didn't know it at the time, she said doctors later told her that a drop in blood pressure can be a warning sign that the condition is developing.
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Despite writing post-operative notes stating that he had performed six procedures on one particular woman, including the removal of torn cartilage, smoothing areas of arthritic wear and removal of soft tissue from within the knee joint, the autopsy and hospital records revealed orthopedic surgeon Dr. Spyros Panos did none of those things.