According to Kaiser Health News, Surgery and anesthesia carry with them small but known risks, including death. The thrust of the story was that ASCs are more dangerous than hospitals. However, the data as we currently know it do not support that claim. It’s possible that better reporting of adverse events from ASCs will provide new information. And I fully support the push for more information. Still, contextual reporting is important.
— Dr. James Lozada, Chicago
Last year, more than 20 million Americans put their trust in ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) for outpatient surgical procedures and treatments ranging from cataract surgery to total joint replacement. They did so because the surgeons, nurses and other health professionals who practice in ASCs have the same education, training and talent as their peers who work only in hospitals.
Regrettably, the Kaiser Health News-USA Today Network article “As Surgery Centers Boom, Patients Are Paying With Their Lives” (March 2) by Christina Jewett and Mark Alesia focused on a relatively small number of adverse events, while ignoring the more than 100 million successful procedures that ASCs provided during the same time frame, find liquor store.
Despite the innuendo and conjecture in this article, there is no empirical evidence that supports the inference that surgery centers pose risk to patients. The adverse events highlighted in the story were tragic anomalies.
Here is one essential fact about ASCs that the story does not cover:
Hospital Transfers. ASCs, like hospital outpatient departments, have all the medical equipment and training needed to respond to unanticipated emergencies. In rare instances, a hospital transfer becomes necessary, and surgery centers work with their local hospitals to have protocols in place to provide for those. More importantly, a recent study in the January issue of the Journal of Health Economics concluded: “We find that patients treated in an ASC are less likely to be admitted to a hospital or visit an emergency room a short time after outpatient surgery.”