How will Joan Rivers' death impact public view of outpatient anesthesia, surgery?

On Aug. 28, comedian Joan Rivers underwent outpatient surgery at a New York ambulatory surgery center to repair her vocal cords. She went into cardiac arrest during the procedure and was transferred to a nearby hospital. She died on Sept. 4. The ASC is now under investigation by the New York State Department of Health, according to an NBC News report.

In light of Ms. Rivers' death and the subsequent flood of media coverage, outpatient surgery has been thrust into the center of attention. The general public is asking "Is outpatient surgery and anesthesia safe?"

The New York State Department of Health will ultimately decide whether or not the medical team at the ASC is responsible for Ms. Rivers' death, but public opinion may lean towards misunderstanding and fear.

ASC leaders are well aware of the benefits and risks of outpatient surgery, but it always helps to be armed with the facts when patients ask: "Is this safe?"  


Whether administered in an outpatient or inpatient setting, general anesthesia is not without risk. According to the Mayo Clinic website, rare complications accompanying general anesthesia, particularly in older adults, include:

•    Temporary mental confusion
•    Lung infections
•    Stroke
•    Heart attack
•    Death

Inpatient vs. outpatient surgery

•    Infection rate. The national inpatient surgical site infection rate is approximately 2 percent (or 20 in 1,000 patients), while the national ASC SSI rate is far less than 1 percent (1 in 1,000 patients), according to the Surgery Center Network website.
•    Patient satisfaction. The ASC industry has an average of 92 percent patient satisfaction, while hospitals have an average of 70 percent, according to the SCN website.
•    Costs. In addition to providing high quality care, ASCs typically perform procedures for 45 percent to 60 percent less than hospitals, according to the SCN website.

More articles on anesthesia:
NAPA adds Newton Anesthesia Associates
California set to pass standards bill for surgical technicians
LifeLinc Anesthesia adds 4 new locations

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