Legendary comic Joan Rivers’ cause of death remains undetermined and, on Thursday, the New York State Health Department launched an investigation into the center where Rivers went into cardiac arrest during an outpatient procedure.
Rivers died Thursday at age 81 after complications during throat surgery. She was at Yorkville Endoscopy, an outpatient clinic, and reportedly stopped breathing during a procedure involving her vocal cords. She was put on life support at Mount Sinai Hospital and news outlets reported later that she was in a medically induced coma.
CBS reports that New York State Department of Health officials declined to provide details on the ongoing investigation, but did say that investigators had visited the facility.
In an email, a spokesperson told CBS that they were looking into “document and medical record reviews, observation, and interviews with facility staff, physicians and others as appropriate.”
Dr. Tara Narula, a cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital, told CBS that outpatient procedures in clinics like the one Rivers was in are generally very safe.
“Generally, surgical outpatient procedures carry a very low risk,” she said. “What it’s important for people to know is that when you have a cardiac arrest, your risk of surviving that is very low. If you have a cardiac arrest in the hospital, there’s only a 25 percent chance of surviving.”
Heart or lung complications are rare in those kinds of surgeries — they usually cause about one death out of every 10,000 patients. In New York, any center providing surgery, outpatient or otherwise, is required to have a defibrillator on hand, as well as keep staff trained in resuscitation.
The investigation has not yet revealed whether the clinic where Rivers had her surgery met those standards. A spokesperson for the New York Department of Health said the lengths of these types of investigations vary on a case by case basis.
Our thoughts are with Joan Rivers’ family during this very difficult time.