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Safety of outpatient surgery centers put into question

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.

While there have been concerns about postsurgical infections in hospitals, there is little data regarding the rate of postsurgical infections in outpatient surgery centers. Researchers for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention assessed 32 centers in Maryland and 36 in two other states in 2010. They discovered that about 66 percent had at least one lapse in infection control, including improper sterilization and cleaning of surgical equipment.

Outpatient surgery patients who suffer serious complications following procedures might be awarded damages if the centers violated health and safety regulations. A medical malpractice attorney can determine the remedies that may be available for a client who has been injured under these circumstances.

Source: Medpage Today, "Popularity of Outpatient Surgery Centers Leads to Questions About Safety", Sandra G. Boodman, December 18, 2014

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