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Is Office Surgery Safe?

The tragic death of comedian Joan Rivers in 2014 during a procedure in an outpatient endoscopy center raises the question of the safety of procedures performed in outpatient or ambulatory surgery centers. 

Our office surgical facility is accredited for IV SEDATION by the American Association for Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgical Facilities (AAAASF) ».

As a surgeon with extensive experience with office-based surgery and the immediate past president of AAAASF, one of the most respected accreditation organizations for ambulatory surgical facilities, I would like to answer that question.  

All surgery has risks, regardless of where it is done, and requires qualified medical providers, careful patient selection, and the safety parameters of an accredited surgical facility.   With proper precautions office surgery is as safe as a hospital setting. However, as a patient, you should be aware of several precautions:

  • Be certain your surgeon (or proceduralist) is appropriately credentialed.  Research the credentials of your surgeon.   The surgeon should be board certified by a Board recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties (Both Dr. Harlen and Todd Pollock are Board Certified).  Further, the surgeon should have hospital privileges to perform that procedure that is to be done in the ambulatory setting. The same principle of proper credentials and hospital privileges applies to the anesthesia provider.
  • Selection of which patients and procedures can safely be done in the ambulatory setting is the responsibility of the surgeon. But sure you are comfortable with this decision. Remember that you have a say.  Surgery in patients with a significant underlying medical condition is best treated in a hospital.  
  • Look for the accreditation of the ambulatory surgical facility.   JCAH, AAAHC, and AAAASF are the three most accepted accreditation organizations.  Each of these agencies has data showing the safety of their accredited facilities.
  • As with any other medical decision, don’t hesitate to seek the advice of your referring physician, primary care physician and obtain a second opinion.

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