What to Expect When You Need to Have Outpatient Surgery


If a doctor tells you that you have a condition or an injury that requires surgery, that might frighten you. Nobody wants to go under the knife, even for a minor procedure.

However, most people survive surgery just fine. You might only have an outpatient procedure, meaning that you can go home after you’ve recovered sufficiently, and you don’t have to stay in the hospital overnight.

Let’s talk about what you might expect if outpatient surgery is in your future.

The Difference Between Inpatient and Outpatient Surgeries

We’ll start by briefly going over the inpatient and outpatient surgery differences. In the most literal way, with outpatient surgery, you can go home right afterward with no hospital stay. That’s not the only difference, though.

Generally, a doctor feels they can perform an outpatient surgery on you if they feel like what they’re doing is relatively minor. They might open you up and repair a damaged muscle, or perhaps they’re removing a troublesome growth, such as a benign tumor. Hundreds or even thousands of different outpatient procedures exist.

If you have to get inpatient surgery, that’s probably a little more serious. The doctor wants you to stick around for at least a day afterward so they can keep an eye on you. The hospital will monitor you during this time, and if anything comes up, they can treat you immediately since you’re already in a fully-equipped medical facility.

You’re almost always going to want an outpatient procedure over an inpatient one. If you have to remain in the hospital, you have to worry about things like pressure ulcers. Pressure ulcers impact about 8.4% of hospital patients if they have to stay in long-term care.

The Check-In Stage

Once you arrive at the hospital for your outpatient procedure, they’ll often make you pay right there on the spot before they admit you. They’ll want whatever copay they require, and the surgery might make you hit your deductible. How much it will cost will likely depend on how good your health insurance is and what the doctor is doing.

After you pay, you’ll need to fill out quite a bit of paperwork. You’ll need to answer questions like whether you have any allergies to medications.

Then, they will admit you. They’ll allow you to change into the hospital gown with an open back, but you can tie it for modesty’s sake. They may let you keep your socks on to keep your feet warm.

The Sedation Process

They’ll have you lie down on a gurney while they ask you some more questions. Expect them to ask you your name, birth date, and why you are there several times.

This is to make sure they have the right patient, and they’re operating on you for the proper reason. It might surprise you how many hospitals and doctors make errors. This is how malpractice suits occur, but to the hospital’s credit, they will usually do all they can to prevent any mistakes, like operating on the wrong body part.

Once they have you lying down on the gurney, they often put you on an IV. They’ll need to stick you with a needle to get it going. If you have smaller veins, they might occasionally struggle to do this. They could jab you multiple times before they get the IV situated, which is no fun.

You often can’t eat or drink anything the night before the surgery, so you will be a little dehydrated. This is part of the reason why they sometimes struggle to insert the IV.

Once the IV is in, they will give you medication to render you unconscious. The anesthesiologist usually does this. Often, you simply slip into unconsciousness without needing to count backward from ten or anything like that.

The Recovery Process

After the surgery, you’ll wake up, and you’ll probably be pretty groggy. Someone will help you dress if you can’t manage it on your own.

The hospital staff won’t let you drive. You’ll need to have a friend or family member there to pick you up. Most medical facilities will not let you take an Uber or a taxi home. It has to be someone you know.

At home, you’ll start the recovery process. The hospital will usually call you the following day to check up on you and make sure you’re doing okay. More times than not, these minor surgeries go fine, so there’s no need to feel afraid.