10 Common Outpatient Procedures

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Hospital Outpatient Entrance Sign

The number of outpatient procedures performed in the United States is on the rise. In fact, it has tripled over the past 30 years to more than 54 million a year. That almost equals the number of procedures that require hospital stays.

There are advantages to outpatient procedures. The anesthesia doesn’t last as long, and the procedure is usually less invasive. That can make them safer. Your recovery also will be faster. You can often go home within a few hours of your procedure.

In general, eye and ear surgeries are likely to be outpatient. Obstetrical procedures, on the other hand, are nearly all inpatient. Here are some of the most common outpatient procedures in community hospitals in recent years:

Cataract Surgery

A cataract occurs when your eye’s natural lens becomes cloudy. Once a cataract interferes with your daily life, you may need surgery to remove it and replace it with an artificial lens. Nearly all cataract surgeries are outpatient. 

Tendon and Muscle Repair

Tendons are the band-like tissues that connect muscle to bone. If injured, they may need surgical repair. For instance, the rotator cuff is a group of tendons and muscles that keep your shoulder in place. Rotator cuff repair is a common outpatient surgery.

Small Joint Repairs

Operations on hands, wrists and ankles are often outpatient procedures. Many people injure their ankles playing sports. If it’s broken, it may require surgery. People often have ankle surgery as outpatients. Sometimes, though, it does require a hospital stay. People with arthritis who need surgery on their hands or wrists can usually have it done as an outpatient. This includes repairing or replacing tendons. It can even include getting a replacement joint.

Gallbladder Removal (Cholecystectomy)

The gallbladder is a pear-shaped organ that sits below your liver. It collects and stores fluid necessary for digestion. A doctor may need to remove it if you develop gallstones. It also may need to come out if it or your pancreas becomes inflamed. Gallbladder removal is usually laparoscopic (minimally invasive). It requires four small incisions rather than a large cut across your abdomen. In most cases, you can have laparoscopic gallbladder removal as an outpatient.

Meniscus Repair

The meniscus is the cartilage that acts as a shock absorber in your knee. Anyone at any age can tear the meniscus. But this injury occurs most often to those who play sports. A surgeon can trim away or repair the torn meniscus in an outpatient procedure.

Abdominal Hernia Repair

A hernia develops when the lining of the abdominal wall pushes through a hole or tear in the wall and forms a balloon-shaped sac. A surgeon needs to sew the wall back together or place a patch over it. Either can be done with laparoscopic, outpatient surgery. The surgeon makes three small incisions instead of a large one across your abdomen.

Skin Therapy

You can have various procedures on your skin as an outpatient. For instance, removal of most skin cancers does not require a hospital stay. This includes melanoma. Also, laser resurfacing to correct wrinkles, scars, sagging skin, and acne is also done as an outpatient.


A lumpectomy is the removal of a cancerous tumor and some breast tissue around it. It's considered breast-conserving surgery, compared with a mastectomy. You can usually have a lumpectomy as an outpatient. This lets you go home the same day. If you have lymph nodes removed, you may or may not need to spend a night in the hospital.

Nerve Treatments

Compressed nerves in your arms or legs, or even your face or chest, can cause severe pain. You may need outpatient surgery to relieve the pain. A common example is carpal tunnel syndrome, which causes your hand to become numb and painful. If a splint doesn't fix the problem, a surgeon may need to operate to relieve the pressure. Carpal tunnel surgery is almost always an outpatient procedure with a local anesthetic.

Nose, Mouth and Pharynx Procedures

When tonsils swell or cause repeated infections, a doctor can remove them. Today, a tonsillectomy is usually an outpatient procedure. Adenoids, which sit behind your nose, also can swell making it harder to breathe. Outpatient surgery to remove them fixes the problem. Another common outpatient procedure is removal of nasal polyps. These are sac-like growths on the lining of your nose.

Having a Safe Outpatient Procedure

Despite the fact you can go home the same day of an outpatient procedure, many of them are still major surgeries. Before scheduling your procedure, take these steps:

  • Know exactly where you are having the procedure. Make sure the facility is accredited and has a good reputation.

  • Find out what safety measures they have in place in case there is a complication with anesthesia or bleeding, for instance.

  • Follow preoperative instructions including dietary restrictions and medicines.
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  11. Lumpectomy: What to Expect. Breastcancer.org. http://www.breastcancer.org/treatment/surgery/lumpectomy/expectations 
  12. Melanoma Treatment. Skin Cancer Foundation. http://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/melanoma/melanoma-treatments 
  13. Meniscal Tears. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00358 
  14. Nasal Polyps. National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001641.htm 
  15. Peripheral Nerve Surgery. University of Michigan Healthcare System. http://www.uofmhealth.org/medical-services/peripheral-nerve-surgery 
  16. Rotator Cuff Repair. Johns Hopkins Medicine. http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/test_procedures/orthopaedic/rotator_cuff_repair_92,P076... 
  17. Surgeries in Hospital-Owned Outpatient Facilities, 2012. Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project. http://hcup-us.ahrq.gov/reports/statbriefs/sb188-Surgeries-Hospital-Outpatient-Facilities-2012.jsp 
  18. Tendon. Merriam-Webster Dictionary. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tendon 
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  20. Tonsillectomy and Adenoids Post Op. American Academy of Otolargyngology, Head and Neck Surgery. https://www.entnet.org/content/tonsillectomy-and-adenoids-postop
Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Jul 9
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