CALGARY – The condition that killed a Calgary woman following cosmetic surgery is tough to diagnose and even more difficult to treat, doctors told a fatality inquiry Thursday.
Intensive care unit physicians who treated Ashish Toews for fat embolism syndrome triggered by liposuction said nothing could be done to save her.
“The treatment for fat embolism syndrome is mainly supportive,” Dr. David Zygen told the hearing designed to prevent similar deaths in the future.
Zygen said the fatty tissues which entered Toews bloodstream following her July 18, 2008 plastic surgery went to her brain and caused inter-cranial swelling.
He said while doctors could provide treatment to deal with the swelling, there was nothing that could be done to stop the fat embolism.
“Unfortunately the pressures were never controlled and maximum medical therapy was not successful,” he said.
Toews, 33, died July 31 after losing consciousness the day following her surgery when she developed a headache so severe she had her husband, Jason, call for an ambulance.
Zygen told Alberta Justice lawyer Nancy McCurdy the condition which caused Toews’ death itself is difficult for doctors to recognize.
“Through exclusion the working diagnosis was cerebral fat embolism due to liposuction,” he said.
He said severe cases of fat embolism syndrome are rare, showing up perhaps once or twice a year on the unit.
And Zygen said he had never seen a case triggered by liposuction.
“It’s most commonly described after long-bone fractures,” he said.
“I had never seen one after plastic surgery.”
Dr. Michael Dunham, who along with Zygen oversaw the woman’s stay in the ICU at Foothills Hospital, said the condition occurs when fat enters the blood stream and then clogs small arteries.
Dunham said nothing can be done to prevent it occurring even before symptoms such as headaches or breathing problems develop.
Jason Toews told the hearing on Wednesday his wife went for a tummy tuck to flatten excess skin following her second child birth and had no interest in getting liposuction.
The hearing, which can’t find fault, or lay blame, continues on Friday.