A New York woman with a torn rotator cuff went to see orthopedic surgeon Dr. Spyros Panos to repair it. Incredibly, Dr. Panos is accused of faking the whole thing – twice – including a follow-up surgery after the woman complained that her shoulder still hurt, according to ABC News.
Worse, the woman worked as a receptionist in the same medical office as Dr. Panos in Dutchess County, New York for more than eight years and knew his family. She said she trusted him completely, even when he recommended the second surgery. After the second “surgery” failed to alleviate her pain, she sought other opinions. Finally a doctor was able to explain why her shoulder wasn't getting better – Dr. Panos never operated.
"I felt betrayed. I felt anger," Altieri said, recalling her emotions when she was informed of the alleged nonexistent surgery. "And I felt so stupid for not being more aware of what was going on."
Experts say it is nearly impossible for a patient by to know on their own whether a surgery has actually occurred. Even other professionals in the operating room can't always say with certainty that the surgeon has performed an intended procedure.
"You can see the surgeon has put the scope in during a knee operation but you can't necessarily tell what's being done because a lot happens very quickly,” said Dr. David Mayman, a hip and knee surgeon with the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. “With many simple procedures it would be quite easy to say you have done something and not do it."
Dr. Mayman noted that many hospitals use quality control safeguards to reduce medical malpractice, for example, requiring surgeons to take pictures throughout a surgery to back up their operative notes and provide visual evidence of their work. Additionally, the surgeon and the medical team meet and review a detailed checklist of the procedures being performed before surgery, that way, the entire operative team is on the same page and aware of what should happen.
The orthopedic surgeon who said he discovered that Dr. Panos faked the shoulder surgeries said it was a bone that initially gave it away.
"The surgeon's notes said that he had removed two centimeters of bone in both of the surgeries. This particular bone doesn't grow back and I could plainly see that no bone had been removed," he said.
Shockingly, Dr. Panos is accused of perpetrating this fraud on hundreds of others. There are more than 261 civil lawsuits pending against Panos, And the news does not get better for the shoulder patient, who also had knee replacement surgery performed by Dr. Panos but has not been re-evaluated yet.
"I almost don't want to know if there's anything else. But I hope no one else ever has to go through this. To have such love and confidence for a doctor and then he does something like this, it kind of rips your heart out."