The Differences Between Outpatient and Inpatient Surgery

February 12, 2023
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When you find yourself in need of medical treatment that involves a surgical procedure, you may think that automatically means a visit to the hospital and an overnight stay—and all the costs and hassles involved with being in the hospital. But there are often other options. Depending on your diagnosis, your treatment plan, and your anticipated recovery journey, receiving treatment in a quality outpatient surgical center like ours can be an effective way to get top-notch, affordable care.

Here is a closer look at outpatient vs. inpatient procedures differ, and what you can expect as you decide the best path for the treatment of your health needs.

Where do inpatient and outpatient treatments happen?

As you may know already, the location where medical treatments are performed is a key distinction between inpatient vs outpatient surgeries. Inpatient means the patient is admitted into the hospital, while outpatient means the procedure is being performed outside of a hospital setting—most likely in a physician’s office or at medical centers or surgery centers that handle outpatient care.

Who performs outpatient vs. inpatient treatments?

Whether your procedure is being done in a hospital or in an outpatient medical center, qualified medical professionals will be performing the procedure. The chief difference in these two settings is that hospitals are large complexes of connected medical services happening under one roof (such as radiology, labs, maternity care, emergency rooms, ICUs, and much more). By contrast, outpatient centers specialize in just the specific services that they focus on performing. 

However, both hospitals and surgical centers are licensed by the proper medical and municipal authorities to offer specific types of care. And you can expect their medical staff to be trained and licensed to give you the care you need.

What happens after the procedure is done?

When an inpatient surgery is scheduled, the patient will be admitted to the hospital for an overnight stay. This is often necessitated by the complexity of the surgery and the related recovery, which requires continual observation and ongoing treatment that is best offered by a hospital’s trained doctors and nurses.

An outpatient procedure, also known as ambulatory surgery or same-day surgery, is one in which the patient can be discharged to return home without an overnight stay. Instead, the patient returns home on the very same day of their procedure to recover at home.

How do you determine whether you need inpatient vs. outpatient care?

There are several factors involved in determining where a patient goes for their medical treatment. Chief among these factors is the specific type of care that is needed. If the patient’s medical condition requires round-the-clock observation, intensive care, or complex follow-up, a stay in the hospital is most likely. Simpler procedures that can be followed up with care performed by a caregiver (such as a spouse or friend) are more likely to be outpatient. 

What conditions warrant an inpatient procedure?

Inpatient procedures are most likely to be performed when the medical diagnosis of the patient is serious and requires a complex approach to treatment. This can include conditions that require special equipment found only in hospitals, as well as treatments that involve several days of intense or specialized care of the sort that surgeons and nurses in a hospital setting are best situated to provide.

Some situations that require inpatient care in a hospital setting include:

  • Colon resection surgery
  • Complex hernia surgery
  • Intra-abdominal cancer surgery
  • Hiatal Hernia surgery
  • ANY open abdominal surgery
  • History of significant illnesses such as a heart attack or stroke
  • Certain chronic or long-term conditions such as cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

What conditions warrant an outpatient procedure?

Outpatient care is an appropriate treatment approach when the patient’s condition requires a medical professional’s involvement, though it does not require the level of care or specialized treatment options found in a hospital. Many minor procedures can be performed in an outpatient surgical center or a physician’s office.

Examples of procedures that are usually performed in an outpatient setting include: 

  • Minor surgeries such as skin cancer removal, lipoma removal, sebaceous cyst removal, hemorrhoid removal surgery, & pilonidal cyst surgery
  • Other procedures such as Gallbladder removal surgery, laparoscopic hernia surgery, port placement
  • Screenings such as a colonoscopy and upper endoscopy
  • Eye surgeries, ENT surgeries, dental procedures, and oral surgery

Can some procedures be done as either inpatient or outpatient?

Yes, in some cases, medical treatments may be done in either one of these settings. Often, making the choice for where the procedure is performed can be determined based on consulting with your doctor and health insurance company, considering any underlying conditions that may affect your health outcomes, and deciding what is best for your personal situation and preferences.

It may surprise you to know that with today’s modern medical advances, many surgeries that once required a hospital stay can now be done as outpatient procedures instead. For example, knee replacements are a common surgical procedure in our area, and at one time, they needed to be performed at the hospital. Nowadays, same-day knee replacements are a safe option that can permit patients to recover in the comfort of their own homes.

How do you know which is better for your needs: inpatient or outpatient surgery?

These days, it is normal for many surgical procedures and their related rehabilitation services to be performed in a convenient, comfortable outpatient setting such as a medical or surgical center like ours. If you are considering your options, you might want to think about the benefits of each approach to your care.

Advantages of inpatient surgery:

  • Different treatments under one roof — Because a hospital has many departments operating under one roof, it is convenient to get a variety of services there. Blood tests can be performed, X-rays taken, surgery performed, pain medication administered, and rehabilitation activities performed all while the patient is there during their hospital stay.
  • Ability to handle complications — For patients that are more likely to experience a need for complicated care, such as a cancer patient who requires a heart procedure or a pregnant mother who is having a cesarean section, a hospital is well equipped to handle the challenges involved in recovery.

Advantages of outpatient surgery:

  • Affordability — By eliminating the need for costly inpatient hospital services, patients often save hundreds or even thousands of dollars in medical expenses when having outpatient procedures.
  • More control of your care — Whether you wish to manage costs or have more choice about your medical caregivers, outpatient surgery puts more control into your hands as a patient.
  • Comfortable home recovery — Being released to your home after your procedure appeals to many patients, who enjoy being in their own bed, with family and friends nearby, as they recover. 

How do you prepare for your procedure and your recovery?

For those receiving inpatient care involving one or more night’s stay in the hospital, you will be provided with check-in instructions if your surgery has been scheduled ahead of time. You will be given a hospital gown, and you may wish to bring basic grooming items such as a toothbrush.

If you are receiving an outpatient surgery or treatment at our surgical center, we recommend that you wear comfortable clothing that is easy to remove and put on, such as loose sweatpants, slip-on shoes with firm rubber soles, and a button-down shirt. Since outpatient surgery is scheduled in advance, you will receive additional instructions for preparation ahead of time.

After the procedure is complete, you will be provided with instructions for your care at home, including how to handle pain management, when to shower, how to change bandages, and more. You will also be provided with instructions for who to call with any questions as you recover.

Compassionate Outpatient Care for the Tulsa Area

Whether you are in need of an outpatient screening procedure, treatments such as mole removal, hernia surgery or another form of outpatient care, our team is here to make your healthcare journey as comfortable, compassionate, and personalized as possible. We offer a number of cost-saving in-office/outpatient procedures that help patients save time and money. Whether it be inpatient or outpatient or consultation, we will  answer your questions, provide clear instructions, and be here to help every step of the way.

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