Veronica Valdez, 36, was in Torrance Memorial Medical Center in Los Angeles for a surgical procedure on her finger, but found the multi-coloured stickers on her face when she came round.
While she was unconscious, her anaesthetist Dr Patrick Yang had cut out and coloured the stickers before putting them in humourous positions on her face, while nurse assistant Patricia Gomez took the photograph.
Valdez had worked at the hospital for 13 years before undergoing the surgery, and Dr Yang said he thought ‘she would think it was funny and she would appreciate it’.
However, Valdez did not see the funny side and said she felt ‘violated’ and ‘was in shock’ at the practical joke.
The 2011 incident prompted a state investigation and civil lawsuit by the patient against the doctor. Valdez is also suing the hospital over an alleged breach of medical privacy, US media has reported.
Her lawyer said that she had to leave her job at the hospital because she was ‘ridiculed and humiliated while under anaesthesia’.
Dr Yang has been disciplined and was suspended for two weeks, but kept his privileges at the hospital.
All other employees involved have also been disciplined but not fired.