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Asking Your ASC

Tuesday, December 21, 2004; Page HE05

Statistics about the overall safety of off-site surgical suites -- known as ambulatory surgical centers, or ASCs -- may be reassuring. But because ASCs are relatively new, managed independently and subject to limited regulation, it's a good idea to verify practices at a center before you commit to have surgery there. Here are some questions to ask:

Is the center or office accredited? It should be. The three accrediting bodies approved by Medicare are:

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*The American Association for Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgery Facilities (www.aaaasf.org).

*The Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (www.aaahc.org).

*The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (www.jcaho.org).

What are the likely surgical complications and what is the risk that you might experience any? The answer will depend on your personal medical history and the nature of the procedure.

What type of anesthesia will be used? (Deep sedation? General? Local?) Who will administer it? Ask if you'll have a board-certified anesthesiologist or a certified nurse anesthetist. If an anesthesiologist won't be present for the entire procedure, will there be one at the ASC?

What are the potential anesthesia complications?

Is there is an office-wide plan to deal with complications?

What hospital is the practice affiliated with?

How will they get you to the hospital, should you need to be transferred?

Will a licensed medical professional (trained in advanced cardiac life support) be in the recovery room with you until you're ready to leave? The ideal answer is yes. In addition to recovery room nurses, a doctor should be around for backup and to treat any complications.

Whom can you contact in case of problems after you leave the premises?

It's important that the ASC designate someone you can call if you are experiencing any side effects or complications that might make it necessary for you to go to a hospital. Good surgical care does not end with the surgery. The patient should also inquire about follow-up visits.

-- Ranit Mishori

© 2004 The Washington Post Company


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