Anesthesia for Ambulatory Surgery




Anesthesia for Ambulatory Surgery

Today the majority of patients who undergo surgery or diagnostic tests do not need to stay overnight in the hospital.  In most cases, you will be well enough to complete your recovery at home. 

Ambulatory (or outpatient) anesthesia and surgical care has proven to be safe and convenient and can be performed in a variety of facilities.  You may have your procedure done in a hospital, a freestanding surgery center or, in some cases, a surgeon’s office.  Your anesthesia care will be given or supervised by an anesthesiologist.


What is ambulatory anesthesia?

Ambulatory anesthesia is designed so you can go home soon after your operation.  Short-acting anesthetic drugs and specialized anesthetic techniques as well as care specifically focused on the needs of the ambulatory patient are used to make your experience safe and pleasant.  In general, if you are in reasonably good health, you are a candidate for ambulatory anesthesia and surgery.  Because each patient is unique, your anesthesiologist will carefully evaluate you and your health status to determine if you should undergo ambulatory anesthesia.

After your early recovery from anesthesia, you usually will return directly home.  In most cases, family and friends can provide all the needed assistance.  If you do not have family members to help at home, you may require additional help.  Some ambulatory facilities offer special post-surgical recovery facilities or extended services with nurses who visit you at home.  Appropriate pain management will be included as part of your discharge planning.

How will I meet my anesthesiologist?

Your anesthesiologist or an associate will interview you before your anesthesia to gather the information needed to evaluate your general health.  This interview may be a telephone call, a visit to the facility or a visit in the office.  Laboratory tests may be ordered, and other medical, surgical and anesthetic records will be reviewed.  You may be asked to fill out a questionnaire about your previous anesthetic experiences and medical conditions, allergies, medications or herbal products.  If you have particular concerns, you should discuss them with the anesthesiologist.

What types of anesthesia are available?

There are several types of anesthetic techniques available.  The anesthetic technique recommended will depend on several factors.  In some cases, the surgical procedure will dictate what kind of anesthesia will be needed.  Based on your medical history, a type of anesthetic may have an additional margin of safety.  As an outpatient, some techniques may allow you to recover more quickly with fewer side effects.  Your preferences also will be incorporated in the selection of the best anesthetic plan for your procedure.

There Are Four Anesthetic Options:

General Anesthesia - This anesthetic choice produces unconsciousness so that you will not feel, see or hear anything during the surgical procedure.  The anesthetic medications are given to you through an intravenous line or through an anesthesia mask.

Regional Anesthesia - This technique produces numbness with the injection of local anesthesia around nerves in a region of the body corresponding to the surgical procedure.  Epidural or spinal blocks anesthetize the abdomen and both lower extremities.  Other nerve blocks may be done with the nerves in the arms or legs to anesthetize individual extremities.  With regional anesthesia, medications can be given that will make you comfortable, drowsy and blur your memory.  

Monitored Anesthesia Care - With this approach, you usually receive pain medication and sedatives through your intravenous line from your anesthesiologist.  The surgeon or anesthesiologist also will inject local anesthesia into the skin, which will provide additional pain control during and after the procedure. While you are sedated, your anesthesiologist will monitor your vital body functions.

Local Anesthesia - The surgeon will inject local anesthetic to provide numbness at the surgical site.  In this case, there may be no anesthesia team member with you.

Before receiving any sedatives or anesthetics, you will meet your anesthesiologist to discuss the most appropriate anesthetic plan. Your anesthesiologist will discuss the risks and benefits associated with the different anesthetic options. With this information, you will together determine the type of anesthesia best suited for you.

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Total care of the surgical patient before, during and after surgery.


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The ASA does not employ physician anesthesiologists on staff and cannot respond to patient inquiries regarding specific medical conditions or anesthesia administration. Please direct any questions related to anesthetics, procedures or treatment outcomes to the patient’s anesthesiologist or general physician.