The issue of safety at outpatient surgery centers has come into question since the death of Joan Rivers on Sept. 4. The actress and comedian died after suffering brain damage during routine throat procedures at a New York center, which federal officials investigated. The probe revealed that the clinic violated numerous regulations related to Rivers' death. In an earlier analysis of 244,000 outpatient surgeries from 2005 to 2010, researchers at the University of Michigan discovered several risk factors, including hypertension, overweight and obstructive lung disease, related to serious complications and death within the 72 hours following surgery. The study found 21 deaths and 232 serious complications, including kidney failure, among the outpatient surgery cases. According to another study, about one in every 1,000 patients develops serious complications following a procedure and require hospitalization.
The director of the Consumers Union Safe Patient Project says that outpatient surgery centers operate under various state laws with a lack of quality measures and detailed outcome reporting. Neither regulators or the public know much about what occurs within the centers' walls. Hospitals operate under tighter regulations, and they are required to report on more of their actions, including the number of infections and surgical errors that occur.