Anesthesiologist in fatal Joan Rivers proceedure is identified

January 25, 2010. Comedian Joan Rivers at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah.

January 25, 2010. Comedian Joan Rivers at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah.  (Reuters)

The anesthesiologist involved in Joan Rivers’ botched throat procedure — who, experts say, could have prevented the comedian’s death — was Renuka Reddy Bankulla, The New York Post has learned.

Bankulla, 47, was the third doctor responsible for Rivers’ treatment besides then-Yorkville Endoscopy medical director Lawrence Cohen and celebrity ear, nose and throat specialist Gwen Korovin, but she has never been identified publicly.

Besides administering anesthesia and sedatives, anesthesiologists “must vigilantly watch the patient’s heart rate, blood pressure and other vital signs,” to ensure the patient can breathe, and “intervene promptly” when the patient is in trouble, said Dr. Karen Sibert, a private anesthesiologist in Los Angeles who specializes in treating high-risk adults.

Approached by The Post outside her home in Scarsdale, Bankulla jumped in a car and left.

“Neither Dr. Bankulla nor I have any comment on this subject,” said her lawyer, Bruce Brady. Bankulla has been silent since the fateful Aug. 28 procedure at the East 93rd Street clinic.

Rivers went into cardiac arrest during a procedure and died on September 4 at age 81.

When investigators for the US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services attempted to question Bankulla she declined to cooperate saying she had been advised by lawyers not to discuss the case.

She only told probers that she had given the comedienne 120 milligrams of Propofol – not the 300 stated in medical records. She explained that she had accidently “double-clicked” on computerized records. Bankulla also neglected to record River’s weight, which is necessary to determine how much anesthesia to administer.

“The physicians in charge of the patient failed to identify deteriorating vital signs and provide timely intervention during the procedure,” the report says.

The city medical examiner has ruled Rivers’ died from a severe lack of oxygen to the brain.

Bankulla got her MD in 1991 from Gandhi Medical College in Hyderabad, India, state records show. She trained at Flushing Hospital and Beth Israel Medical Center. She no longer works at Yorkville Endoscopy, the clinic said.