Outpatient surgery centers are different from hospital operating rooms

Ambulatory surgery centers are increasingly popular alternatives to hospital-based outpatient surgeries. Most surgeries, by the way, are outpatient surgeries, rather than requiring a hospital admission.

According to the Texas Ambulatory Surgery Center Society, the first surgery center in the United States opened in 1970. There are over 5,300 ambulatory surgery centers today nationwide, and 430 in Texas alone. In some states, there are more surgery centers than hospitals. A majority of all outpatient surgeries in America are now performed in an ambulatory surgery center.

Types of surgeries at ambulatory surgical centers

VMG Health recently published the results of its 2022 Multi-Specialty ASC Benchmarking Study. The study splits up the representation of different specialties for ambulatory surgery center cases:

• Gastroenterology: 32% of all procedures

• Ophthalmology: 26% of all procedures

• Pain management: 22% of all procedures

• Orthopedics: 21% of all procedures

• Otolaryngology: 11% of all procedures

• General surgery: 9% of all procedures

• Urology: 8% of all procedures

• Oral surgery: 8% of all procedures

• Gynecology: 7% of all procedures

• Plastic surgery: 6% of all procedures

• Podiatry: 5% of all procedures

Quality of care issues

While ambulatory surgery centers are touted for their cost-effectiveness and convenience, there may be high risks to patient safety when there is a complication or something goes wrong in the operating room.

Outpatient surgery centers are equipped with staff, supplies, and equipment to the same degree that hospitals are to handle emergencies. For surgery centers, the business model focuses on moving as many patients in and out of operating rooms as quickly as possible.

Ambulatory surgical centers typically aren’t set up to handle serious medical emergencies such as cardiac arrest or respiratory arrest. In those situations, a delay of minutes in getting the appropriate treatment in response can mean the difference between recovery and brain damage or death.

Here at Painter Law Firm, we’ve handled many cases where patients suffered severe injuries or death at outpatient surgery centers where they expected to be in and out of the operating room the same day.

In one case, a Spring, Texas school teacher, and coach went to a Houston outpatient surgery center to have a rotator cuff repair surgery on his shoulder. The anesthesiologist and certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) were aware of an abnormal finding on a 3-lead EKG, but did not want to delay the surgery to further workup.

The surgery itself was successful, but the patient became agitated as he was emerging from anesthesia. Our experts felt that the CRNA’s response of pulling out the breathing tube (extubation) was premature and inappropriate. The patient quickly went into respiratory arrest without anyone immediately noticing. He sadly passed away.

There’s no doubt that most patients who are convinced to use ambulatory surgery centers for their procedures or surgeries will not have bad outcomes. Sadly, though, when something goes wrong, the stakes are exceedingly high.

That’s why we recommend that patients have a thorough discussion with their surgeon before deciding whether to proceed with surgery in a hospital operating room versus an ambulatory surgery center. When considering an outpatient center, discuss whether it would be appropriate to have an advanced cardiac workup to make sure the patient’s heart and circulatory system are in good enough shape to survive the surgery.

If you’ve been seriously injured because of poor surgical anesthesia care in Texas, then contact a top-rated experienced Texas medical malpractice attorney for a free consultation about your potential case.

Robert Painter
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Robert Painter

Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm Medical Malpractice Attorneys in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas. Contact him for a free consultation and strategy session by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.