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Surgery at the Doctor's Office: What You Need to Know

Surgeries that were once performed only in a hospital or surgery centers are becoming more common in converted exam rooms and surgical suites in physicians' offices.

Many of these procedures require general anesthesia or IV sedation. Yet, in some states, there are few standards, regulations, or accreditation requirements for surgeries performed in physician offices.

Considering the complexity of some surgery, and the anesthesia used, you may wonder if this trend is a safe one. If you have a doctor who wants to use the office for your next surgery, here is some information to get you started.

Safety Concerns

Without the same safety regulations as hospital surgery, office-based surgeries could cause serious complications. There have been reports of deaths resulting from the following situations:

Regulation requirements differ among states. Make sure you check them before you have your surgery.

Why Have Surgery in the Office?

The trend toward office-based surgery is driven by several factors, including:


Hospitals and surgery centers must meet strict state and federal licensing and accreditation guidelines. They also have medical boards that oversee practitioners' qualifications and credentials. On the other hand, inconsistent standards exist for office-based surgery. Some states have addressed the issue of office-based surgery and implemented regulatory requirements while others are relatively unregulated.

There are efforts to standardize surgical safety for office-based procedures. For example, the American Society for Anesthesiologists has created guidelines for office-based anesthesia. Also, the Institute for safety in Office-Based Surgery (ISOBS) created checklists which cover items from the preoperative period through discharge to help keep patients safe.

The Anesthesia Factor

Once you move from local anesthesia to IV sedation or general anesthesia, the risk for complications such as respiratory distress or heart attack increases. In rare cases, patients can even have a life-threatening reaction to local anesthesia.

Who Should Not Have Surgery in a Doctor's Office?

Regardless of how minor the surgery, certain patients, particularly those with serious health conditions, such as heart disease, or uncontrolled high blood pressure or diabetes should not have surgery in a physician's office.

Be Informed

Before you have surgery in a doctor's office, the American Society of Anesthesiologists recommends that you ask the following questions:

As a patient, you should to be aware of the risks and benefits of surgery in any setting. If you have any concerns or questions, make sure you talk to your doctor.


American Society of Anesthesiologists

The Joint Commission


Canadian Anesthesiologists Society

Health Canada


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Last reviewed December 2016 by Michael Woods, MD, FAAP  Last Updated: 12/9/2016