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Outpatient Surgery

What is outpatient surgery?

Outpatient means that you don’t stay in the hospital overnight. Inpatient means you stay overnight. Many types of surgery are now being done on an outpatient basis. This is because more types of surgery are less invasive. It means they don’t need large cuts (incisions). Because of that, problems after surgery are less common. You can go home to recover.

Not all people can have outpatient surgery. For some procedures, you will need to be in the hospital. Your surgeon and anesthesiologist will look at your medical history. This will help them to decide if your surgery can be done as outpatient.

What types of surgery may be outpatient?

Some types of surgery mean you need a lot of care afterwards. Or they may have a high risk of problems after surgery. For those, you need to stay in the hospital. The best situation for outpatient is a surgery that is less complex and done on a healthier person. Common procedures that are often done on an outpatient basis include: 

  • Tonsillectomy

  • Hernia repair

  • Gallbladder removal

  • Some kinds of cosmetic surgery

  • Cataract surgery

Where is outpatient surgery done?

Outpatient surgery is done in a variety of places. A surgery center may be in a hospital. Or it may be a separate facility. It may be part of the hospital system. Or it may be an independent clinic. Some types of surgery can be done in a healthcare provider's office.

What are the benefits of outpatient surgery?

The benefits can include:

  • Convenience. Recovering in your home can be easier than staying in a hospital.

  • Lower cost. Since there are no overnight hospital charges, costs are much lower for outpatient surgery. Some insurance companies will only cover certain types of surgery on an outpatient basis. (If needed, your healthcare provider can certify that you need inpatient care due to your health.)

  • Less stress. In most cases, going home after surgery is less stressful than being in the hospital. This is often true for children who are afraid of being away from home. Most people prefer to recover in their homes rather than in the hospital.

  • Easier to schedule. In a hospital, a scheduled surgery may be delayed by an emergency surgery or procedures that take longer than planned. An outpatient clinic can often stay on schedule more easily. This is because the procedures are less complex and more routine.

Is outpatient surgery safe for older adults?

Age is not a reason to exclude an older adult from having outpatient surgery. But age does affect the reaction to some types of anesthetic medicine. Short-acting medicines often take longer to break down in older adults. Older adults may also have more health problems. These could make an outpatient surgery more risky. An older adult needs to have a full medical assessment before any surgery. This will help to decide the best place to do the surgery.

How soon after surgery can I go home?

When you can go home depends on the type of surgery and anesthesia. It also depends on your insurance coverage, and the policy of the surgery center. Most people can go home between 1 to 4 hours after outpatient surgery. The surgeon or anesthesiologist will give you more exact timing for your case. In some cases, you may need to stay overnight. All outpatient clinics have arrangements with a hospital if needed. After an outpatient procedure, plan to have someone to drive you home and stay with you for a period of time. Most people can't drive for at least 24 hours after surgery.

What should I expect when I get home?

You may be drowsy and have other minor after-effects. These include muscle aches, sore throat, dizziness, or headaches. You may have nausea. You may also be tired and have discomfort for a day or two. This depends on the type of procedure done. Your healthcare providers will tell you what to expect.

At home, you may need to manage pain with pain medicine. Follow instructions for this medicine exactly as prescribed. A healthcare provider will follow up with you to make sure you are recovering well. You will also be told who to call if you have concerns or need urgent help.

Online Medical Reviewer: Jonas DeMuro MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Wanda Taylor RN PhD
Date Last Reviewed: 3/1/2019
© 2000-2019 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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