NRI doctor shuts practice after being sued 22 times

NRI, Dr Ramesh Srungaram, 52, weight loss surgeon who has been sued 22 times for alleged medical malpractice, has shut his practice. He worked at several hospitals in recent years, in spite of the lawsuits and complaints against him, quit from the Houston Community Hospital on March 19. According to the report, two years ago at Highland Medical Center in Lubbock, Texas, four patients were rushed to University Medical Center in critical condition over two days, after Srungaram performed gastric bypass surgery. One of the four died and Srungaram resigned. However, Dr Srungaram was accepted a month later by Houston Community Hospital where one of his patients, Chris Berwick, died several months after undergoing laparoscopic bypass surgery, the Houston Chronicle said. It was there that another patient Donna Collins died last year 11 days after Srungaram performed bypass surgery on her. Collins’ family brought a medical malpractice suit against Srungaram — one of 22 filed against him — only to discover that neither the doctor, nor the hospital had insurance at the time.

Weight-loss surgeon closely monitored, concern over track record

AUSTIN, December 13, 2003
Houston Chronicle

A Sugar Land weight-loss surgeon, whose Houston and Lubbock patients suffered kidney failure, bloodstream infections and even death, is being closely monitored by the state agency that regulates physicians, officials said Friday.

Dr. Ramesh K. Srungaram, who performed surgeries at Cypress Fairbanks Hospital in Houston and at Highland Medical Center in Lubbock until 2002, was put on probation for seven and a half years, fined $25,000 and ordered to operate only in the presence of another surgeon approved by the Texas State Board of Medical Examiners, state regulators said Friday.

“It’s not inconceivable that there’s more (disciplinary actions) to come” in this case, said Dr. Donald Patrick, executive director of the state medical board. A spokeswoman at Srungaram’s office, Obesity Surgery Specialists at 11811 FM 1960 West, said the doctor had no comment about the board’s ruling.

Srungaram, 52, operates at Houston Community Hospital, 2807 Little York Road. In the past, he has flown between Houston and Lubbock performing procedures, Patrick said.

Bariatric, or weight-loss, surgery is “a really, really popular sub-specialty now,” Patrick said, but that procedures often are complicated by the fact that many of the patients are “medically fragile” due to obesity-related problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

Experts estimate the mortality rate from the surgery itself is one in 200. Potential problems may include intestinal leaks, serious bleeding, infections, blood clots in the lungs and abdominal abscesses.

Even so, Srungaram’s track record raised concerns among hospital and state officials.

Following an alarming spate of bad outcomes among Srungaram’s weight-loss surgery patients, Cypress Fairbanks suspended the doctor’s privileges in June 2002, according to medical board documents. The hospital later restored his privileges with the understanding the doctor would work under supervision, but Srungaram resigned. Similarly, Srungaram resigned from the Lubbock hospital after his privileges were suspended in August 2002 pending further investigation.

The state medical board said, during a seven-day period in July 2002, four of Srungaram’s Lubbock patients developed serious complications after weight-loss surgery and one patient died.

The fatality was a 49-year-old woman with diabetes, high blood pressure and arthritis, who learned about Srungaram’s services through an Internet site, the board said. After gastric bypass surgery, she developed a leak from her small intestine, breathing problems and kidney failure and was transferred in critical condition to Texas Tech University Medical Center where she later died.

Another Lubbock patient, a 450-pound woman, developed a leak and required additional surgeries and had to be transferred to Texas Tech University Medical Center.

“Based on the opinion of the Board’s consultant, (Srungaram’s) care for these four patients was below the acceptable standard,” the board said.

During 2001 and 2002, Srungaram performed 123 gastric bypass procedures at the Cypress Fairbanks facility and 11 of those patients experienced complications as a result of the procedure, the state medical board said.

Several of the patients required additional surgeries to correct problems and had lengthy hospital stays. One 38-year-old woman wound up in an emergency room with septic shock following her surgery. She had to be put on mechanical ventilation and was eventually placed in a long-term acute care facility.

Srungaram’s recruited many of his patients via an Internet site or at seminars on bariatric, or weight-loss, surgery. A free, informational weight-loss surgery Web site,, connects Srungaram and other doctors to prospective patients, said Scott Douglass, the Web site’s owner. The state medical board’s disciplinary order bans the doctor from accepting any patients through the Internet.

Srungaram’s surgical supervisor, or proctor, will participate in the next 100 bariatric surgeries performed by Srungaram, according to the board’s order. That doctor also will prepare written reports documenting any deficiencies or recommendations to improve Srungaram’s practice.

Srungaram was honored in 1987 by the Denton A. Cooley Cardiovascular Surgical Society as an outstanding trainee at the Texas Heart Institute at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital.