Outpatient Surgery Checklist

8 ways to insure your surgery experience will be good.

Health Matters

Outpatient Surgery Checklist

8 ways to insure your experience will be good

-Susan Crandell

a nurse and an out patientMore than 57 procedures were performed without an overnight hospital stay in 2006, and the number of surgeries at independent outpatient surgery centers tripled in the decade between 1996 and 2006, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. If you’re facing outpatient surgery, you (or your insurance company) will save some money over a hospital stay, and it can be comforting to be back home the night of your operation. If all goes well, it’s a fine experience. For example, when my husband had a hernia repair, we reported to the hospital’s outpatient clinic in the morning; by sundown, he was sitting out on our deck eating taco chips and salsa.

Here’s a checklist to help insure a safe and effective event.

1. Take care of housekeeping chores. Make sure someone will pick up your mail, walk your pets and handle any other daily tasks you won’t be able to accomplish yourself. Stock your fridge with healthy food that will be appetizing on a queasy stomach (perhaps taco chips and salsa will not be your number one choice).

2. Appoint a designated driver. And be sure he or she can stay with you long enough to get settled at home.

3. Make a list of your meds. Your doctor needs to know exactly what you take, including herbal remedies and nutritional supplements to guard against problems with anesthesia or other issues surrounding surgery. If you smoke, be sure your physician is aware.

4. Give a complete medical history. This means not just the basics, but dental procedures and any situations in which you have received anesthesia. Be clear about your allergies, and mention it if any of your relatives have suffered allergies to anesthesia.

5. Check out the doctor and the facility. The outpatient center should be licensed by the state department of health, and it should be outfitted with emergency equipment like crash carts and drugs to treat common reactions to anesthesia. Make sure the staff is trained to handle such emergencies. Your surgeon should be board certified in the specialty you require and should have a lot of experience performing your procedure.

6. Talk about pain before you’re in pain. Be sure you and your doctor are on the same page regarding pain medications. You want to feel good enough to move around, which reduces the risk of blood clots. Discuss the best option for you, whether it’s a narcotic pain reliever like codeine or a nerve block.

7. Know what will happen if something goes wrong. If you’re at an outpatient center, go over the plan for moving you to a hospital. Be sure there’s a good facility close by, and whether your surgeon can accompany you there.

8. Put your papers in order. Sure, it may be a small operation, but I subscribe to the theory that there’s no such thing as minor surgery when it’s happening to you. Designate a health surrogate who can make decisions for you if you are incapacitated, and that you have a signed and notarized DNR (do not resuscitate) form if that is your wish. Likewise for organ donation.

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