Recently there was an article on whether having a procedure done in a surgery center is safe. In the world of pain management, some practitioners only do procedures in these facilities (or hospitals) while others do most of their procedures in the office. Surgery centers can handle more complex procedures, and can typically handle a deeper level of sedation. In pain management, surgery centers can be beneficial for complex procedures such as implants, but often they rarely are necessary. Sedation for a pain management procedure usually does not need to be very deep, and should be able to be done without a surgery center.
The safety of a surgery center and a procedure in reality is no better than the quality, skill, and experience of the practitioner. After spending more than 20 years performing complex spinal procedures, as well as teaching courses to other physicians, it is the ability of the physician that really matters. Surgery centers are often profit centers for the physicians working in them. Furthermore, a physician who sedates most patients for procedures is often using the sedation to cover for a technique that may cause pain. A skilled interventionist should be able to do most procedures with a local anesthetic and ensure they are practically painless. The use of sedation for many practitioners is a crutch to reduce the need to talk to the patient and to perform the procedure with the least painful technique.
Pain Medicine Safety
In pain medicine, the most common injections – spinal and joint related procedures – should be able to be done quickly and comfortably. The main issue that most practitioners should be treating is the anxiety of the patient. Light medication to treat the anxiety can often be given orally. For longer procedures, IV medication is sometimes easier to use. Universally, procedures that are painful are most often due to the technique and experience of the provider. Experience often allows the practitioner the knowledge of how to perform a procedure when a patient presents a more complex situation.
In the end, safety of a center is dependent on the practitioners. If the provider does not fully know what they are doing or the best techniques, the patient is more likely to have issues with the procedure. Further, if the patient is significantly sedated, the patient will not react when the practitioner does something wrong, making it more likely that significant damage may occur. The best physicians will always care most about the patient and the problem, not the payment they might receive from doing an intervention. The best physicians have years of experience, are board certified, and have an intense, loyal patient following. Skill and experience help keep a patient safe and make a procedure safe and effective. Errors in pain management procedures are generally rare. Surgical centers and sedation are not important in patient safety; the quality of the practitioner is the most important variable.