8 Ways to Make an Outpatient Procedure Safe

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    Guidance for the Best Possible Outcome
    Outpatient surgery has many advantages. There's no overnight hospital stay. Procedures usually cost less. Complications are less likely. They often take less time and are easier to fit into your schedule. However, outpatient surgery is still a major medical procedure. It should be taken seriously. Plan ahead with the following steps for the best possible outcome.

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    1. Research the facility and your doctors.
    Before you commit to an outpatient procedure, make sure the facility is accredited and well-respected and has a good track record. It's also a good idea to do a background check on the surgeon who will be doing the procedure. The surgeon should have significant experience with the specific procedure you are having and a good reputation for his or her work. Also check on the training and experience of the anesthesiologist. You can find background information and patient satisfaction surveys on Healthgrades.com  by searching the doctor’s name.

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    2. Know what to expect.
    Almost all procedures have some limits on what you can do, eat or drink in the hours and days after the procedure. Knowing what the procedure involves and what steps are necessary for your recovery will help you plan for your return home. In some cases, there could be long-term changes to your lifestyle, such as dietary restrictions or the use of crutches. Knowing this in advance allows you to make any necessary adjustments ahead of time.

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    3. Prepare mentally and physically.
    People who have surgery usually have a better outcome when they're fully prepared. If you are stressed about your procedure, for instance, don't let the anxiety build. Instead, try positive thinking and deep breathing to work through it. It’s also important to treat your body right in the days or weeks before your surgery. Eat a healthy diet. Exercise regularly. Avoid all smoking and excessive drinking. Ask your doctor if there are other things you should or should not do ahead of time.

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    4. Choose a designated driver and make other arrangements in advance.
    You will almost always need someone to drive you home after the procedure. Make these arrangements in advance. It’s also likely you’ll need to take medicine afterward. So, if possible, fill these prescriptions ahead of time so you won't have to stop at a pharmacy when you'd rather go right home. Most outpatient procedures have strict limits on activity and diet afterward. This is to make sure you heal properly. Stock the fridge and cupboard with what you can eat and drink. You may also need someone to help you around the house, especially if you're the parent of young children.

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    5. Follow all preoperative instructions.
    Outpatient procedures may have rules on what you can eat or drink in the hours before your procedure. Ask your doctor or nurse to explain any instructions you don't understand. You also might need to stop taking some medications a couple of weeks before the procedure. It may be OK to take other drugs up until the morning of the procedure. Your doctor should provide all of this information. Ask for written instructions so all the dos and don'ts are clear and easily accessed by others who may be caring for you.

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    6. Follow all postoperative directions.
    Going home after an outpatient procedure has its advantages. But, it can also have drawbacks. People sometimes try to get back to their regular routines before they're truly ready. That’s why it’s important to follow your doctor’s post-op advice to improve your chances of healing. If the doctor says to take pain medication regularly, rest often, and avoid certain foods, there is usually a good reason for doing so.

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    7. Be aware of potential complications and report problems.
    Complications can occur after an outpatient procedure, just like they can after a procedure in a hospital. That makes it important to follow up with your doctor if you experience anything unusual. Before you go home, make sure you know the warning signs to watch for and when to call your doctor's office. Again, a written list is helpful. Some pain is normal after most outpatient procedures. But, if you feel severe pain or have other unusual symptoms, follow up as soon as possible. Heavy bleeding or pus at an incision site, for instance, can be a sign of an infection. It needs a doctor's attention.

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    8. Keep your postoperative appointments.
    A nurse often will call you in the days after your procedure to make sure you are recovering like you should. With some procedures, you may have a follow-up appointment with your doctor a week or two afterward. Before you have the procedure or before you go home, ask about scheduling a follow-up visit. Among other things, this visit can give you peace of mind to know you are healing well and everything is going as planned.

8 Ways to Make an Outpatient Procedure Safe

About The Author

  1. Preparing for Surgery. National Women’s Health Resource Center, 2011. http://www.healthywomen.org/condition/preparing-surgery
  2. Outpatient Surgery. American Society of Anesthesiologists, 2013. https://www.asahq.org/whensecondscount/patients%20home/preparing%20for%20surgery/types%20of%20surger...
  3. Outpatient Surgery. American Society of PeriAnesthesia Nurses, 2012. http://www.aspan.org/Resources/ASPAN-Patient-Information/Outpatient-Surgery
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2019 May 24
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