New Short-Acting Anesthetics Cut Recovery Time

New anesthetic agents, combined with less-invasive surgical techniques, are allowing more and more patients safely to bypass the recovery room and even go home within minutes after surgery, according to Jeffrey Apfelbaum, M.D., vice chair of anesthesia and critical care at the University of Chicago Medical Center, speaking at the American Society of Anesthesiologists annual meeting.

At the University of Chicago Hospitals, more than 50 percent of patients having outpatient surgery recover quickly enough to leave the operating room in a chair and completely bypass the recovery room. Moreover, they are "awake, alert, comfortable, clear-headed, and have minimal, if any, pain or nausea," said Apfelbaum, a pioneer in the clinical testing and application of the newer anesthetics.

The trend will be to shift this approach from academic medical centers to community hospitals and clinics, and from clinics to private doctors offices, said Apfelbaum.

That shift is already underway. At the meeting, Apfelbaum presented a University of Chicago study involving five community hospitals or surgi-centers trained to implement the newer forms of anesthesia, using short-acting, fast-emergence general anesthetics, which allow patients to regain consciousness and alertness within minutes. His team found that 15 to 40 percent of patients who underwent outpatient surgery with new anesthetics were safely able to bypass the recovery room altogether, up from two percent or less before the study.

Speeding recovery time not only increased patient satisfaction, but also produced annual savings ranging from $50,000 to $158,000 per site.

"Better anesthesia and minimally-invasive surgical techniques have made it safe for many operations even some fairly complex procedures such as gall bladder removals, breast biopsies, and pacemaker placements to take place in doctors offices," said Apfelbaum. He estimates that seven to ten p

Contact: John Easton
University of Chicago Medical Center

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