Outpatient Surgery in a Doctor’s Office-the Rising Popularity and Associated Risks

The Wall St. Journal published an interesting article today on the controversial but growing trend of doctors performing outpatient surgeries in their offices. These offices are often unregulated and the rising number of adverse incidents has led some states to examine the practice and legislate regulation for the facilities. It is estimated that between 35,000 to 40,000 doctors perform surgical procedures in their own offices. Only a small fraction of these offices is accredited and regulated by independent health review agencies. The Journal article estimates that 45% of outpatient surgical procedures are performed in hospital outpatient departments, which are highly regulated and normally in close proximity to a hospital if something goes awry during the procedure. Another 38% of these outpatient services takes place in ambulatory surgery centers, which are also regulated and accredited. That leaves 17% of outpatient procedures that are performed in unregulated and unaccredited facilities. In these situations, the surgeries are performed under the medical license of the practitioner. As one might imagine, this had led to problems including surgical errors, anesthesia errors, catastrophic injuries and death. It’s also led to some lawsuits against the doctors who’ve performed such procedures in questionable settings. If you’re scheduled to have an outpatient procedure, please make sure the facility is regulated and accredited by an independent health agency or the state. Your life may depend on it.