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Outpatient Surgeries Carry Serious Risks

Age, heart disease can boost odds of adverse events, experts warn

FRIDAY, March 23, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Old age, longer operations and cardiovascular disease all raise longer-term risks from outpatient procedures, a new study finds.

Being 65 or older and having a procedure that lasts longer than 120 minutes, cardiac problems, peripheral vascular disease, cerebrovascular disease, cancer, HIV infection and the use of regional or general anesthesia are all associated with an increased risk of hospital admission after a person has outpatient surgery, says a team from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

All these risk factors should be carefully considered before a person has outpatient surgery, the researchers reported in the March 19 issue of the Archives of Surgery.

They analyzed data on more than 783,500 people who had undergone outpatient surgery. Of those, 4,351 were sent to hospital immediately following their surgery, and 19 died. That works out to about one death per 50,000 patients.

"This study shows we can assess the risk for a patient to have surgery away from a hospital where emergency services are close at hand," corresponding author Dr. Lee A. Fleisher, chairman of anesthesiology and critical care for the University of Pennsylvania Health System, said in prepared statement.

"Most complications from outpatient surgery are minor. But if there is something major, would you rather be far away and need to call an ambulance and be transported varying distances to a hospital, or would you rather have a full staff of physicians in the building and ready to help treat you?" he said.

While outpatient surgery is "very safe," Fleisher said risk factors for certain patients need to be taken into consideration.

"It is the responsibility of both the patient and the physician to consider the medical history and type of procedure before deciding what is best to ensure a healthy outcome," Fleisher said.

More information

The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has more about surgery.

SOURCE: University of Pennsylvania, news release, March 19, 2007
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