debate over the safety of outpatient surgery centers rages on ii

In our previous post, we provided some basic background information on ambulatory surgical centers or outpatient surgery centers, as they are otherwise known.

While it appears as if many surgeons are fully on board with the idea of procedures being performed at ASCs, so too are many patients. Indeed, many former ASC patients have indicated that the experience was pleasant, the waiting times shorter, the cost cheaper and the overall results favorable.

However, in the aftermath of the tragic and highly publicized death of comedy legend Joan Rivers at an ASC earlier this fall, many prospective patients could understandably be having some doubts about going under the knife outside of the hospital.

To recap, the 81-year-old Rivers suffered massive brain damage and ultimately died during an otherwise routine throat procedure performed at a Manhattan-based ASC back in September.

A subsequent investigation by federal officials uncovered multiple violations at the accredited facility, including the failure to note deteriorating vital signs, inconsistencies in the medical record concerning anesthesia and the performance of a surgical procedure for which Rivers did not provide her informed consent.

While many in the medical community swear by the safety of ASCs, citing studies that have found low rates of serious complications and fatalities, there are some patient advocacy groups that are not so sure. In particular, they are troubled by the widely varying laws among the 50 states concerning ASCs, and the lack of comprehensive information about quality measures and patient outcomes.

“There’s not much known about what happens within the walls of these places by regulators or by the public,” said an official with the Consumers Union’s Safe Patient Project. “Hospitals are more tightly regulated” than outpatient surgery centers. “They have to report on many more aspects of what they do, such as errors and certain infections.

While there likely isn’t much patients can do to avoid undergoing a surgical procedure at an ASC, experts indicate that they can take steps for their own protection and edification.

For instance, they can tour the facility ahead of time, and make inquires as to whether it is outfitted with a crash cart (i.e., a wheeled cart equipped with life saving supplies, medicines and a defibrillator) and has a plan in place in the event of a medical emergency.

Those victimized by surgical errors, anesthesia errors or other medical mistakes need to understand that they have options for seeking justice, and that a skilled legal professional can help them explore these options.

Source: Kaiser Health News, “Popularity of outpatient surgery centers leads to questions about safety,” Sandra Boodman, Dec. 16, 2014

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