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Surgery Patient Recovers From Two-Week Medically-Induced Coma

(November 24, 2009 - Rockville Centre, NY) The scenes were like something out of the "ER" and "Grey's Anatomy" television medical dramas.

pr_20091124_Surgery_Patient_RecoversSoon after 44-year-old Nancy Leib of Wantagh arrived at the Emergency Department at Mercy Medical Center, her severe abdominal pain was diagnosed as a gangrenous small bowel and emergency surgery successfully removed more than one fifth of her intestine. But the next morning, a rare complication severely reduced blood flow to the remaining bowel, creating a grim situation when Ms. Leib was returned to the operating room.

"Complete removal of the small intestine is incompatible with normal life," explained Dr. Gregory Zito, Mercy's Director of Surgery, "And we found that although we were able to restore a sufficient blood supply to avoid that, the organ would not recover from a buildup of abdominal pressure that would follow the closing of the incision."

The solution was a combination of advanced medical procedures not often attempted in a community hospital like Mercy. Before practicing at Mercy, Dr. Zito was Director of the Surgical Intensive Care Unit at the Northport Veterans Administration Medical Center. Drawing on his experience there, he placed Ms. Leib in a medically-induced coma, so that rather than close her abdominal incision, Dr. Zito could cover it with a removable "patch" made of high-tech tissue-replacement material known as AlloDerm® that is generally used in hernia repair and breast reconstruction following mastectomies. That enabled him to return his patient to the operating room each day and re-open the incision to relieve the abdominal pressure and maintain the bowel.

After eleven such procedures, the bowel sufficiently healed to allow Dr. Zito to permanently close the incision and begin to gradually awaken his patient, which would taken another three days. After 14 days of unconsciousness, followed by a week in Intensive and a few more days of acute hospital care, then more than a week in Mercy's inpatient rehabilitation unit, Ms. Leib returned home in October.

"It's really quite remarkable," said Dr. Zito. "Despite two weeks in a coma, there are no signs that she is experiencing any physical or cognitive deficits."

Ms. Leib, is a nurse who currently works in a cardiologist's office in Roslyn. From 1988 to 2001, she worked as a nurse in a Coronary Care Unit - at Mercy Medical Center. Small world.

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Photo: Dr. Gregory Zito, Mercy Medical Center's Director of Surgery (right), used a combination of advanced medical procedures not often attempted in a community hospital to save Nancy Leib of Wantagh.



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