While the biggest difference between inpatient and outpatient joint replacement surgery is the length of your hospital stay, you can expect a few other key differences.
An emphasis on “prehab.” When you have an inpatient joint replacement, much of your time in the hospital is spent on rehabilitation to help you begin the process of regaining strength and mobility. This often includes performing exercises, learning to use equipment like a walker, and receiving education on how to prepare your home to support a full recovery.
When you have outpatient surgery, much of this education takes place before the procedure—hence the term “prehab.” You can expect to learn the information you need for a safe, comfortable recovery during appointments before surgery. You may also have physical therapy to begin conditioning your body for recovery. When you wake up after surgery, you can go home and rest rather than spend time learning about your recovery.
Changes to anesthesia protocols. Most outpatient surgical procedures are performed using spinal anesthesia rather than general anesthesia. This means the anesthetic is delivered via a needle in the lower back rather than putting you completely under. Most people tolerate spinal anesthesia better than general anesthesia and recover more quickly. Spinal anesthesia also has fewer risks of complications.