With the advancement of surgical care, many patients who undergo a surgical procedure are not required to stay overnight in the hospital, allowing them to complete their recovery in the comfort of their home.
Ambulatory (i.e. outpatient) anesthesia and surgical care has proven to be safe and can be performed in a variety of facilities, including traditional hospitals, certified surgery centers and with some procedures, a surgeon’s office. The anesthesia care will be given by and/or supervised by an accredited anesthesiologist.
What is ambulatory anesthesia?
Ambulatory anesthesia is a specialized form of anesthesia that allows patients to undergo surgery and then return home the same day. A combination of short-acting anesthetic drugs and specialized anesthetic techniques are used to maintain a safe and relaxed experience. Every patient is different and has individual needs; therefore your anesthesiologist will determine whether or not you are a good candidate for ambulatory anesthesia and surgery.
After your recovery from anesthesia, it will be determined by the anesthesiologist and the surgeon whether you can be sent home to continue with recovery. In most cases, family and friends can provide all the needed assistance. Ambulatory facilities often offer special post-surgical recovery services if you do not have family members to help at home. Your surgeon will discuss proper pain management and post-op care as part of your discharge planning.
What types of anesthesia are available?
There are several types of anesthetic techniques available for you and your doctor to choose from. The anesthetic technique chosen depends on several factors, including what type of procedure is being performed as well as prior medical history. When undergoing an outpatient surgical procedure, some techniques may allow you to recover more quickly with fewer side effects and complication risks. Your preferences will also be considered while determining which anesthetic option would be best for your procedure. There are four anesthetic options:
General anesthesia – This anesthetic option produces an unconscious effect, causing the patient to not feel, see or hear anything during the surgical procedure. The anesthetic medications are given to you through an intravenous line (IV) or through an anesthesia mask.
Regional anesthesia – This anesthetic technique produces numbness through the injection of local anesthesia around nerves surrounding the surgical procedure site. Epidural or spinal blocks are regional anesthesia techniques that are used as nerve blocks to anesthetize the abdomen and both lower extremities, while you maintain consciousness. Other nerve blocks may be used to anesthetize the nerves in the arms or legs. With regional anesthesia, medications can be given in correlation with the nerve blocks that will make you comfortable, drowsy and blur your memory.
Monitored anesthesia care – With this anesthesia option, you usually receive pain medication and sedatives through your intravenous line (IV) from your anesthesiologist, while they monitor your vital body functions. While under sedation, the anesthesiologist also will inject local anesthesia into the skin, which will provide additional pain control during and after the procedure.
Local anesthesia – The surgeon will inject local anesthetic to provide numbness at the surgical site. When local anesthesia is used, there may be no need for an anesthesiologist or anesthesia team member to be with you.
Prior to any surgical procedure, you and your anesthesiologist will discuss the most appropriate anesthetic plan for your individual needs, as well as the risks and benefits associated with the different anesthetic options. Together you will determine which form of anesthesia is best suited for you and your surgical procedure. If it is not possible to keep you comfortable during surgery with regional, monitored or local anesthesia, your anesthesiologist may determine that general anesthesia is needed. Although you are monitored carefully and your anesthesiologist takes specific precautions, complications or side effects can occur with any anesthetic option, as with all surgical procedures.