In-patient vs. Ambulatory Procedures: What Does it Mean?

Inside blue light lit hospital: Do You Know the Difference between in-patient and ambulatory surgery?

Thinking about any type of medical procedure can be extremely daunting. While the entire team at NYBRA Plastic Surgery strives to provide clear, accessible information at every stage, it can be helpful to go into your initial consultation with some baseline understanding of key medical vocabulary. One simple set of terms to know is inpatient and out-patient, or ambulatory. Read on for a primer on what these words mean.

In-patient, out-patient, and ambulatory are all types of surgeries.

These terms are a way of describing a surgery based on the amount of care a patient requires immediately after surgery. They refer to the postoperative treatment setting a given procedure necessitates.

Ambulatory and out-patient are synonyms.

Out-patient and ambulatory refer to the same type of procedure. Patients are able to go home soon or immediately after an ambulatory surgery. These procedures are done in a hospital or doctor’s office and do not require a hospital stay. They tend to be relatively short and simple, with low risk of complications and minimal downtime.

In-patient procedures require a hospital stay.

Simply put, an in-patient procedure is one that must be followed by one or more nights in the hospital. A hospital stay after surgery allows for rigorous surveillance and hands-on patient care in the days following surgery. The fact that a procedure is typically in-patient does not make it dangerous or high-risk. It simply indicates that the surgery is relatively complex or may require a bit of additional recovery time as compared to an ambulatory procedure.

Surgical designations are not set in stone.

Most surgeries have a predictable, post-operative progression. However, individual factors may contribute to a surgery’s standing as ambulatory or inpatient in your specific case. Some patients with specific comorbidities or extenuating circumstances may require a hospital stay after a procedure that is typically out-patient. An in-depth surgical consultation can help you understand your specific needs.

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