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Outpatient Surgery

What is outpatient surgery?

With improved technology and advances in anesthesia and pain control, many less invasive surgical procedures are now being performed on an outpatient, or ambulatory, basis. Common procedures that are now routinely performed on an outpatient basis include tonsillectomies, hernia repairs, gallbladder removals, some cosmetic surgeries, and cataract surgeries. Given the millions of procedures performed every year, complications from outpatient procedures are relatively uncommon.

Not all patients are candidates for outpatient surgery. If you have certain procedures, you will need to be hospitalized. A patient's medical history and the advice of the surgeon and anesthesiologist are important in determining if the procedure is best performed on an outpatient or inpatient basis.

What kind of operation may be appropriate for outpatient surgery?

The most appropriate procedures for outpatient surgery. In you have certain procedures, you will need to be hospitalized are those associated with postoperative care that is easily managed at home. Also, those procedures with very low rates of postoperative complications. These need the care of a healthcare provider or nurse.

Where is outpatient surgery performed?

Outpatient surgery is performed in a variety of settings. Ambulatory surgical centers are located either within a hospital setting or as a freestanding satellite facility. This may be either independent or part of the local hospital. Some procedures may actually be performed right in the healthcare provider's office.

What are the benefits of outpatient surgery?

There are many advantages of outpatient surgery over traditional, inpatient surgery. These include the following:

  • Convenience. The convenience of recovering in your home generally makes recovery time easier than an in-hospital stay.

  • Lower cost. Since there are no hospital room charges, and related hospital charges, costs are much lower for outpatient surgery. Some insurance companies will cover certain surgical procedures only on an outpatient basis. The exception to this is if your healthcare provider certifies that you need a more intensive level of postoperative care due to an underlying medical condition.

  • Reduced stress. In the majority of cases, outpatient surgery is less stressful than inpatient surgery. This is especially true for children who are afraid of being away from home. Most people prefer to recover in their homes rather than in the hospital.

  • Scheduling is more predictable. In a hospital setting, emergency surgeries and procedures that take longer than expected can delay scheduled surgeries. An outpatient setting can generally stay within a set schedule since the procedures are less complex and more routine.

Is outpatient surgery safe for elderly patients?

Age, alone, is not a reason to disqualify an elderly patient from having outpatient surgery. However, age does affect the reaction of elderly patients to certain anesthetic medicines. Short-acting medicines often take a longer time to be metabolized by elderly people. Elderly people may also have more underlying medical conditions that could make an outpatient surgery riskier. It is important for an elderly patient to have a thorough medical evaluation before any surgery to determine the best surgical setting for that individual for the best result.

How soon after surgery do patients go home?

The scheduled time of discharge depends on the type of surgery, the anesthesia used, insurance coverage, and the policy of the surgery center. In general, most patients go home between 1 and 4 hours after outpatient surgery. The surgeon or anesthesiologist can give you more specific information based on your case. Occasionally, it is necessary for a patient to remain overnight. All ambulatory surgical facilities have arrangements with a hospital if this becomes necessary.

What are the responsibilities of the ambulatory patient when back home?

Patients who undergo an outpatient procedure should have someone to drive them home and stay with them following the procedure. Most patients are restricted from driving for at least 24 hours after surgery. Patients often experience drowsiness and minor after-effects. These include muscle aches, sore throat, and occasional dizziness and headaches. Occasionally, nausea may also be present. There may also be fatigue and discomfort for a day or two following the surgery. This discomfort varies depending on the type of surgical procedure performed.

Once at home, the patient must be able to tolerate any pain from the procedure with the prescribed pain medicine. The patient must be able to follow written and verbal instructions for proper pain management. A nurse or the healthcare provider will generally follow up these instructions to make sure the patient is recovering normally. The patient will also receive telephone numbers to call if there are concerns or emergency help is needed.