Consumer Reports: Are surgery centers safe?

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More and more these days, if you need surgery, instead of going to a hospital you might end up at an outpatient ambulatory surgery center. (WLS)

More and more these days, if you need surgery, even something as complicated as joint replacement, instead of going to a hospital you might end up at an outpatient ambulatory surgery center.

They're freestanding facilities designed to get you in and out on the same day, sometimes in just a few hours and often for less money.

But Consumer Reports has important advice about who should and should not go under the knife at one of these centers.

Tom Bligh had his meniscus repaired at an ambulatory surgery center. He said his teenaged daughter had surgery there a year ago and he was impressed with the facility.

"We were able to come in an hour or so before the surgery and leave that afternoon. It was great," Bligh said.

"We really pride ourselves on trying to run our schedule in a very efficient way and try to avoid delays as much as possible," Dr. Roy Naturman said.

An ambulatory surgery center often provides faster registration and discharge procedures and can cost less out of pocket than in-patient surgery in a hospital.

"But ambulatory surgery centers are not for everyone. Elderly people and those with serious medical conditions may be safer in a hospital," said Diane Umansky, Consumer Reports.

For people with serious conditions like obesity, lung or heart problems even the simplest surgery can trigger complications that may need hospital facilities.

"Before you opt for surgery at an ambulatory surgery center that is not affiliated with a hospital, check the center's certification. Some may not be held to the same standards as hospitals," Umansky said.

The Center should be CMS certified, meaning it adheres to Medicare standards. Also, ask about the ASC's emergency plan. It's important to know if there is resuscitative equipment on site and how you would be transferred to a hospital if that became necessary.

Consumer Reports also advises asking about the surgeon's experience. The doctor should have performed your type of surgery at least 50 times in the last year.

All Consumer Reports material Copyright 2017 Consumer Reports, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Consumer Reports is a not-for-profit organization which accepts no advertising. It has no commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site. For more information visit consumer.org
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