Understanding Outpatient Surgery

By Floria, Barbara 
March 21, 2017

Understanding Outpatient Surgery

Many surgical procedures that were done in hospitals 10 years ago are now being done on an outpatient basis, in which the patient goes home the same day as the surgery.

In fact, more than 60 percent of elective surgery procedures in the United States are now performed as outpatient surgeries, and this percentage is projected to increase to nearly 75 percent in the next decade, according to the American Society of Anesthesiologists.


Some reasons outpatient surgery has become more popular with patients and health care providers:

  • Convenience. With outpatient surgery, a person returns home on the same day as the procedure.

  • Advances in medical technology. These advances allow doctors to provide high-quality care in an outpatient setting.

  • Lower cost. Care costs are much lower for outpatient surgery because there are no charges for hospital rooms and care.

  • Less stress. Most people find outpatient surgery less stressful than inpatient surgery because they can recover at home.


Procedures routinely done in outpatient settings include removal of tonsils and adenoids, hernia repairs, gallbladder operations, colonoscopies, hemorrhoid repairs, cataract and cosmetic surgeries and some foot, ankle and hand operations.


Outpatient surgeries are performed in a variety of settings:

  • Hospital outpatient centers. These are hospital-owned and operated facilities (on hospital grounds) that specialize in outpatient surgery.

  • Freestanding surgery centers. These are owned by a group of physicians or for-profit companies.

  • Physicians' offices. Doctors can perform minor procedures in their offices. For example, dermatologists often do skin biopsies and remove moles in their examination rooms.

To find the outpatient center that best suits your needs, ask your doctor, family members and friends for referrals and seek answers to these questions:

  • Is the center licensed or certified as a medical facility by your state?

  • Is the center accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations? (Call 630-792-5000 to find out.)

  • If anesthesia or sedation is required, is a trained and board certified anesthesiology specialist available to administer it?

  • Does the center have emergency provisions, such as emergency cardiac equipment, bottled oxygen and a staff trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), in the event of surgical complications?

  • Does the center have a transfer agreement with a hospital to take care of emergencies that may occur during surgery?


March 21, 2017


Vitality magazine/March 2006

Reviewed By:  

Sara FosterSara Foster RN MPH