How Safe are Outpatient Surgery Centers?

Ambulatory surgical centers – surgery facilities outside of hospitals – are booming.  How safe is outpatient surgery compared to surgery performed in hospitals?

A report issued in December 2017 shows that total revenues in U.S. outpatient surgery centers hit $26 billion.  The same report estimates that by 2020, 60 percent of all U.S. surgical procedures will be done in ambulatory surgical facilities.

One of the biggest advantages offered by outpatient surgical center to patients and their families is that they are less costly.  But do patients risk their care to achieve financial savings?

Anesthesiologist Mistakes Made During Surgery

There are estimates that medical errors are now the third leading cause of death in the United States.  These include misdiagnosis, medication errors, and preventable mistakes made in the emergency room.  Mistakes made in surgery also constitute a leading cause of serious medical errors.  And errors made by anesthesiologists during surgery can be among the most grave.

A new study compares the outcomes of anesthesiologist mistakes made in outpatient surgery clinics versus those made in hospital operating rooms.  It’s a mixed bag, but there are genuine concerns for patients who have outpatient surgery.

Outpatient Surgery Medical Malpractice Claims

The Doctors Company provides medical malpractice insurance to physicians.  It reviewed closed medical malpractice lawsuit claims between 2007 and 2014, examining 290 closed claims of malpractice against anesthesiologists in ambulatory surgical centers and 528 closed medical error claims against hospital anesthesiologists.  They ranked the patient harm from 1 to 9, with 1 being at the low end and 9 being the highest – patient death due to an anesthesiologist’s mistake.

The most common outpatient surgeries that resulted in medical malpractice claims were:

·         Shoulder outpatient surgery – 18 percent of all claims

·         Knee outpatient surgery – 8 percent of all claims

·         Cataract outpatient surgery – 7 percent of all claims

Outpatient surgery facilities had more patient injuries due to mistakes that were labeled “medium-severe.”  Hospital operating rooms had more medical malpractice claims due to highly severe patient injuries.  However, the report says that difference was not significant.

The report also cites potential pitfalls that may occur during outpatient surgeries so anesthesiologists can make changes to avoid critical mistakes in the future.

It suggests that anesthesiologists should be more careful in preassessment.  That is, take a closer look at patients well before surgery to consider any health risks for each patient and determine if hospital surgery may be more appropriate.

Poor communication and teamwork in outpatient surgical procedures were also cited as causes for serious errors.  Anesthesiologists in outpatient centers may work with many different surgeons, which can lead to dangerous miscommunications during procedures.

Also, poor teamwork during outpatient surgeries can lead to distractions and improper patient monitoring, per the report’s author.  Better teamwork leads to fewer distractions and less serious mistakes during surgery.

If you have lost a loved one due to mistakes during surgery in an outpatient center or in a hospital operating room, you deserve justice.  Contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney, who will pursue your legal rights.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.

Authored by Gray, Ritter & Graham, P.C., posted in Articles January 29, 2018