Outpatient Surgery

Surgery does not always require an overnight stay in the hospital. This type of surgery – often called same-day, outpatient, ambulatory or office-based – is becoming more common and can take place at an outpatient facility (connected to a hospital or at a separate surgical center) or in a physician’s office.

Nearly two-thirds of all operations are performed in outpatient facilities, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Outpatient surgery provides patients with the convenience of recovering at home, and can cost less.

Most outpatient surgeries can take anywhere between a few minutes to a few hours but are not medical emergencies. Typical outpatient surgery ranges from simple mole removal to hernia repair to knee-replacement.

Although outpatient surgeries may not be medical emergencies, they still require some form of anesthesia or pain medication. The same anesthetic techniques used in hospitals may be used for outpatient surgery, ranging from local anesthesia to numb a small area of the body to general anesthesia, which results in total loss of consciousness and pain sensation. The surgery will most likely require you to prepare in the same way that you would for hospital-based surgery.

Before you have outpatient surgery, take the following precautions to ensure the safest and most successful result possible:

  • Check qualifications – Be sure the physician leading your care is certified to perform the procedure by asking about the doctor’s qualifications and experience. Those who are qualified have special training and passed exams given by a national board of surgeons. Also ask your surgeon how much experience they have with the procedure, and their record of successes and complications with this surgery.

    Be sure the nurses and other clinical staff who will support the surgeon are also experienced with the procedure and have the appropriate certifications. The outpatient surgery center should be licensed and accredited as well.
  • Find out who’s providing and monitoring the anesthesia – Alleviating pain is a key part of surgery. Be sure a physician anesthesiologist is leading your anesthesia care.
  • Be sure emergency procedures are in place – While complications are rare, they do occur. Prior to surgery, ensure that the surgery site has emergency medications, equipment and procedures in place to safely care for you if an emergency occurs. This is especially important because, unlike hospitals, an office-based or same-day surgery site may not have an emergency facility nearby.

On the day of the surgery:

  • Plan for recovery time – When your surgery is completed, you will be taken to a recovery room where you should be closely monitored by a physician anesthesiologist or other physician. If you do not feel well or are in a lot of pain, tell your physician anesthesiologist. Once you have recovered from the anesthesia and are ready for discharge, you will be allowed to go home. Keep in mind that the decision to send you home will depend on your medical condition, type and length of surgery.
  • Bring a friend or family member – Because your coordination and reflexes may be temporarily impaired, you must have a responsible adult with you to drive you home. It can take 24 hours to regain your coordination and reflexes, so it’s important to have a friend or family member stay with you for that time.

Your physician will give you specific instructions on how to prepare the night before and day of your surgery. By being prepared before surgery, you can increase your chances of a safe and successful experience. For more information on preparing for surgery, visit Preparing for Surgery.