Patient and Doctor Filling Out Forms | Treasure Valley Hospital

The Difference Between Inpatient & Outpatient Surgery

Inpatient and outpatient surgeries can both be performed in the hospital. The difference between the two involves where the patient stays the night following the surgery. Outpatient surgery, also called “same day” or ambulatory surgery, occurs when the patient is expected to go home the same day as the surgery. Outpatient surgery is increasingly possible due to advances in sedation, pain management, and surgical techniques.

Outpatient Surgery

After the procedure, patients are monitored in the postanesthesia care unit (PACU), or an outpatient postoperative care area. Patients typically stay until they can drink without nausea, urinate, or perform other tasks required by the surgeon.

Patients are not permitted to drive following such procedures and must have a friend or family member stay with them for twenty-four hours following the procedure. A nurse usually calls patients the next day for an update and to answer any questions they may have.

Although outpatient surgical patients may occasionally be admitted to the hospital if complications arise, their procedures are still considered outpatient surgeries.

Inpatient Surgery

Inpatient surgery, on the other hand, occurs when a surgical procedure is performed with the expectation that the patient remains in the hospital for one or more nights. Following the post-surgical recovery period, inpatient surgery patients stay at the hospital for at least one night following their procedure.

Inpatient surgical patients need to have pertinent legal forms on hand such as the Advanced Directive, Living Will, and/or Power of Attorney. They should also bring a change of comfortable clothing and eyeglasses, a walker, or other necessary assistive medical devices. Valuables should stay at home.

Nurses help hospitalized patients follow the diet, activity, and medication regimen prescribed by the surgeon. Before going home from an outpatient or inpatient surgery, nurses review home-care instructions including medications, bandages, activity restrictions, and required follow-up appointments.

Seeking clarification for instructions and getting answers to questions before going home is critically important to recovery.