Headlines littered with patient friendly terms such as “no general anesthesia,” “lunchtime lipo,” and “no scar” may have some cash and time strapped patients considering an elective surgical procedure. Before going under a seemingly pain-free and impossibly quick knife, physicians from the American Society of Anesthesiologists would like to remind patients to do cautious and completely thorough research before signing up for any elective medical procedures in office-based, or ambulatory medical facilities.
Breakthroughs in surgical and anesthetic techniques allowed for more invasive procedures to be performed outside of the hospital. It is estimated that 17 to 24 percent of all elective ambulatory procedures are now performed in office-settings.1 Due to the vigilance of anesthesiologists to make patient safety their highest priority, during the past 20 years anesthesia related deaths have dropped from one in 10,000 anesthetics to less than one in 400,000 anesthetics for outpatient procedures.2
“The type of anesthesia administered and patient monitoring completed in surgical facilities is a key element of any procedure,” said anesthesiologist Hector Vila, Jr., M.D. “It is just as important for patients to check the background and certification of anesthesiologists or anesthesia providers that are working at outpatient or office facilities as it is to research the background of the medical professionals performing the surgeries.”
The ASA offers these tips to patients thinking of surgery in ambulatory surgery facilities:
Always check the credentials of the physicians performing the procedure.
Is the medical staff trained and certified to perform the procedure you will undergo? Check the credentials and background of the anesthesiologist and surgeon.
Be an active participant in your care. When having surgery outside of a hospital, inquire if the office or ambulatory center where your surgery will be performed is licensed and accredited to perform surgical procedures.
Without adequate regulations, ambulatory surgery may be performed in facilities with limited or outdated equipment, inadequately trained anesthesia personnel, little or no established patient safety standards and no accreditation requirements.
Is the hyped procedure really performed with no anesthesia? If any anesthetics are used, be sure the person administering them is certified and trained to properly administer the drugs and monitor patients.
Even “anesthesia cocktails” advertised to provide safe pain relief during procedures can be dangerous and require proper administration and monitoring by trained anesthesia professionals.
Make sure you are in optimal health before any procedure.
If you have medical problems, you may need to have clearance to undergo surgery from your primary care physician. An anesthesiologist can help determine if this clearance is necessary.
Find out who will monitor you during the procedure- the surgeon, a nurse or an anesthesiologist?
Only a medical professional specifically trained to administer anesthesia and monitor patients should be monitor you throughout a procedure.
Meet with your anesthesiologist or anesthesia provider before you receive anesthesia to properly discuss your medical history and the procedure.
Ask questions and address any concerns you may have regarding the procedure including pain relief and recovery.
Notify all physicians of all medications you are taking or recently took including herbal remedies.
Herbal remedies and other medications can often interact with anesthetics and medications you may receive for the procedure.
Check the total costs of the procedures – initial quotes may not include all physician or office fees. Ensure that there will be no surprises on final invoices from all providers.
If claims will be submitted to insurance companies, ask if all providers are covered by your insurance plan.
1American Hospital Association (AHA) Trendwatch Chartbook 2007: Trends Affecting Hospital and Health Systems, April 2007 Chapter 2, Organization Trends.
2American Society of Anesthesiologists. Office-Based Surgery and Anesthesia; 2001.