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Planning for Same-Day Surgery

If you are scheduled to have surgery, there's a good chance you will be going home on the same day as the procedure. Same-day surgery, also called outpatient or ambulatory surgery, makes up about 60 percent of all surgeries done in the U.S. today.

Same-day surgery can take place at a hospital, surgical center or doctor's office. Because of advances in surgery and anesthesia, many surgeries that once required a hospital stay can be safely done as same-day surgery.

Most surgery procedures involving the eyes, ears or skin are performed as same-day surgeries. Other possibilities include oral surgery, nasal surgery, colonoscopy, biopsy and urology procedures. But any surgery is still serious, so you should know what to expect before, during and after same-day surgery.

Before same-day surgery

Your surgeon may schedule some tests before your surgery to make sure you are healthy enough for the procedure. Make sure to tell your surgeon about all the medications you are taking, including any over-the-counter drugs or herbal supplements. You may need to stop taking them before your surgery. 

Your surgeon will also want to know if you are or may be pregnant, or if you have any allergies. You may also be told to call the surgeon's office if you develop any signs of illness in the days before surgery.

During your presurgery visit, ask your surgeon about all the possible risks, as well as the benefits of the procedure. It's a good idea to do some advance research on your own and learn as much as you can about your condition and your surgery so that you know the right questions to ask.

Also, as part of your research, check out the qualifications of the facility where you are having your same-day surgery. Make sure it is accredited by the Joint Commission or the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care.

If the facility where you're having same-day surgery is not at a hospital, ask what its arrangements are in case of an emergency. Finally, make sure you know what type of anesthesia will be used.

Anesthesia options for same-day surgery

If you are having a minor procedure, such as a small biopsy that requires only an injection of local anesthetic, you may not need an anesthesiologist, or anesthesia specialist. But for many same-day surgeries, this doctor will be an important medical team member to meet with before your surgery and ask about the risks of anesthesia.

Types of anesthesia used in same-day surgery are:

  • General anesthesia. With this type of anesthesia you are unconscious during the procedure.

  • Regional anesthesia. This is a numbing type of anesthesia that takes away pain sensation in the area of your body where the surgery is taking place.

  • Monitored anesthesia. This type of anesthesia makes you drowsy and helps relieve pain. It may be given along with regional or local anesthesia. With this type of anesthesia, your anesthesiologist will watch over your heartbeat, blood pressure and breathing during the surgery.

For general anesthesia and monitored anesthesia you will be instructed not to eat or drink anything -- including gum and candy -- after midnight on the night before surgery. Ask your surgeon if you should take your regular medications with a small sip of water on the day of your surgery.

The day of surgery

If you are having same-day general or monitored anesthesia, someone will need to come with you and drive you home. Other common instructions for the day of surgery include:

  • Remove all jewelry, including body-piercing jewelry, and leave these valuables at home.

  • If you wear contact lenses or dentures, bring the storage case with you because you may need to remove them.

  • Wear loose clothing so that you'll be comfortable after the surgery.

If you are having general or monitored anesthesia, you will have an intravenous line started in your hand or arm and instruments will monitor your heart, blood pressure and the oxygen in your blood.

After same-day surgery

If you had general or monitored anesthesia, you will be taken to a recovery area, where you will be watched until you have recovered enough to go home. You may be given some oxygen and may continue to get intravenous fluids until you are able to drink normally.

Depending on the type of surgery you had, you should be ready to go home within about four hours after the procedure. Before going home, listen to all your postoperative instructions and get them in writing. Ask how long you will need someone to be with you at home.

Common aftercare steps include:

  • Carefully take all your medications as directed; don't take any over-the-counter drugs without first telling your doctor.

  • Follow all instructions about everyday activities, diet and wound care.

  • If you had general or monitored anesthesia, don't drive, use dangerous machinery, drink alcohol or make any important decisions for about 24 hours.

  • Make sure you know what symptoms after surgery require a call to the doctor.

  • Know when your follow-up appointments are.

Same-day surgery is often a safer, more convenient and less expensive surgical option. To have a good same-day surgery experience, it is important to be prepared, learn as much as you can about your surgery and ask plenty of questions. Research shows that patients who ask questions and work best with their doctors have the best results from surgery.