U.S. Outpatient Surgeries on the Rise

For Immediate Release: January 28, 2009

Contact: CDC National Center for Health Statistics Office of Communication (301) 458-4800
E-mail: cdcinfo@cdc.gov

Ambulatory Surgery in the United States, 2006. NHSR Number 11. 26 pp.
PDF Version (458 KB)

The number of outpatient surgery visits in the United States increased over the past decade and now account for nearly two-thirds of all surgery visits, according to a new report from CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.

The report, “Ambulatory Surgery in the United States, 2006,” contains the first data on outpatient surgery visits since 1996. The data were collected from 142 hospitals and 295 freestanding centers as part of the National Survey of Ambulatory Surgery (NSAS).

The report credits the growth in outpatient surgery visits to advances in medical technology and changes in payment arrangements.

The outpatient surgery visits to freestanding centers increased threefold from 1996 to 2006, whereas the rate for outpatient surgery visits to hospital centers was relatively unchanged. Visits to hospital centers, at 19.9 million, continued to outnumber those to freestanding clinics, at 14.9 million (57% compared with nearly 43%).

Other findings from the report include the following:

  • An estimated 57.1 million surgical and nonsurgical procedures were performed during 34.7 million outpatient surgery visits in 2006.
  • Females had significantly more ambulatory surgery visits (20 million) than males (14.7 million).
  • The procedures performed most often during outpatient surgery visits included endoscopies of the large intestine (5.8 million) and small intestine (3.5 million) and extraction of lens (3.1 million).
  • The leading diagnosis for outpatient surgery visits was cataract (3.0 million), benign tumors (2.0 million), and malignant tumors (1.2 million).
  • The average time spent in the operating room during a visit varied from nearly 62 minutes at hospital-based centers to just over 43 minutes at freestanding centers. Time spent in surgery and recovery and overall visit time were also higher for hospital-based centers.
  • The average total length of time varied widely depending on the type of diagnoses. For example, surgeries for patients with chronic diseases of the tonsils and adenoids took more than twice as long (155 minutes) as those for patients with cataracts (70 minutes). The total time was measured from the time the patient entered the operating room to the time he or she left post-operative care.
  • Private insurance was the principal source of payment for most outpatient surgeries (53%).

The NSAS is a nationally representative survey that covers procedures performed in both hospital-based and freestanding surgery centers but excludes federal, military, and VA hospitals. Data were collected from medical records at the facilities.