General Surgery Blogs

Dr. Steven Williams in Boise, Idaho

What Is Outpatient Surgery?
20 June 2019

What Is Outpatient Surgery?

A surgical procedure is called an Outpatient surgery when the patient can leave after the surgery on the same day. It is also called an ambulatory or same-day surgery. Due to improved pain control, advanced medical techniques, including those that reduce the time needed for recovery, more and more surgical procedures are being done as outpatient surgery. Outpatient surgery excludes hospital admission, reduces the number of drugs prescribed, and uses both the doctor’s and patient’s time more efficiently. Some common outpatient procedures are cholecystectomy (laparoscopic removal of the gallbladder), abdominal and inguinal (groin) hernia repair, breast surgery, and removal of lumps.

On the other hand, inpatient surgery is when the patient is required to spend at least one night in the hospital for the surgery. The duration of hospital stay depends on the type of surgery that needs to be done and the patient’s individual care needs.

Outpatient observation is a term used when the patient actually stays overnight in the facility or hospital but are not truly designated as an inpatient. Medicare rules drive these designations for certain surgeries many times.

There are many factors which surgeons and anesthesiologists need to consider in order to determine whether the patient can qualify for same-day surgery or if the surgery will require the patient to stay in the hospital.

How should I prepare and what to expect from an outpatient surgery?

Just like inpatient surgery, there are instructions to follow for outpatient surgery. Your surgeon and team will guide you for the preparation of outpatient surgery. Although some outpatient surgeries are done under regional or local anesthesia, most are done under general anesthesia. Regardless of the type of anesthesia, you will probably be asked not to eat or drink at least 8 hours before the procedure. This is for your safety! If there is solid food in your stomach when you go to sleep. or if you get nauseated during local anesthesia and vomit, you could breathe food particles into your lungs (aspirate) which can cause a horrible pneumonia and lung injury or even death.

Other things that will help you in having a safe and comfortable outpatient procedure are:

  • Get in your happy zone: Hey, it’s tough being a patient! Do everything you can to take a little time on the front end to prepare and have your usual obligations settled and delegated before the day of surgery. Don’t plan on working on other things on the day of surgery. Don’t try to run that last errand before surgery. Please avoid all extra stress around the time of your surgery. Studies have shown that those who pray and meditate before the surgery and allow time to avoid extra stressors actually have less postop pain!
  • Come with a family member or friend: In most of the cases, patients are not allowed to go back home alone. Therefore, it is advisable to have someone drive you back home after the surgery. Most facilities also want that person to stay with you at the same residence overnight to keep an eye on you.
  • Wear comfortable clothes: You may feel pain after the surgery and have bandages over the incision, so it is better to wear loose and comfortable clothes.
  • Plan for recovery time: If you had a minor surgery under local anesthesia, you may go home soon after the procedure. However, if you were given sedation, regional, or general anesthesia, the doctor may monitor you for a few hours in the outpatient postoperative care area or post-anesthesia care unit. You will be asked to stay there till you can drink without nausea, urinate, or perform other tasks asked by your anesthesiologist/ surgeon.
  • Before you leave the facility: the nurse will give you some discharge instructions and will inform you about:
    • What activities you can or cannot do
    • What you are allowed to eat
    • How to manage your pain
    • When you should come for a checkup
    • How to take care of your wound or dressing
    • What medicines you should take and for how many days
  • After reaching home: it is recommended to have someone stay with you for at least 24 hours so that you can take rest as the anesthesia wears off.
  • Follow-up: You may get a call from the hospital inquiring about your health status the next day after the surgery. Follow up in your surgeon’s office is usually the following week or week or 10-14 days after surgery. If you are experiencing unrelenting or increasing pain, unrelenting vomiting, excessive coughing, or temperature greater than 101 degrees Fahrenheit, you should call the number provided as these are signs that something could be wrong. If you think something is wrong, do call and discuss it with your surgeon’s office or the facility where you had surgery. Complications are better managed when they are discovered early.

Learn more about Inpatient and Outpatient Surgery: Learn More


The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.



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Practicing surgery in the Treasure Valley since 2002