Safety of outpatient surgical centers

Ambulatory surgical centers have grown in popularity in New York and throughout the country in the past decade. Patients perceive them as providing a friendly, less crowded atmosphere to undergo surgery. However, with the death of Joan Rivers last September at one such center, some prospective patients are voicing concerns over their safety.

Officials report the surgical center did not weigh Ms. Rivers or respond to changes in her vitals for a quarter of an hour, and a procedure was performed without her consent. Due to these and other deficiencies, the clinic may be unable to participate any longer in the Medicare program. According to a board member of an ASC accreditation organization, however, the centers are largely safe. The ASC Quality Collaboration reported that the centers scored well on indices used to monitor safety issues. The incidence of wrong-site, wrong patient or procedure in ASC was .033 per 1,000 patients. Another index such as the timely administration of prophylactic antibiotics was 99 percent.

Doctors who perform such surgeries as cataract removal, colonoscopies and orthopedic procedures often are center owners. The number and type of surgeries have responded to developments in anesthesia and surgical procedures making the use of ASCs more common. Yet, some consumer groups maintain that the centers are not as tightly regulated as hospitals and voice concern over surgical errors that are not recorded. They also cite concern over whether teams in the centers are as able to handle emergencies as they are in hospitals.

Patients who elect to have surgery in an ASC may experience problems associated with anesthesia or with the center's available emergency response. If that happens and the patient incurs financial loss, lost income or the need for additional medical care and its associated cost, a medical malpractice attorney can provide insight as to the remedies that may be available.

Source: ASC Quality Collaboration,"ASC Quality Collaboration Quality Report3rd Quarter 2014," 2014http://www.ascquality.org/qualityreport.cfm#Transfer .

Source: Medpage Today, "Popularity of Outpatient Surgery Centers Leads to Questions About Safety", Sandra G. Boodman, December 18, 2014

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