Due to the high societal and financial burden of spinal disorders, spine surgery is thought to be one of the most impactful targets for healthcare cost reduction. One avenue for cost-reduction that is increasingly being explored not just in spine surgery but across specialties is the performance of surgeries in ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs). Despite potential cost-savings, the utilization of ASCs for spine surgery remains largely limited to high-volume centers in the US, and predominantly for single- or two-level lumbar microdiscectomy and anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) procedures. Factors most commonly cited for the lack of wider adoption include the risk of life-threatening complications, paucity of guidelines, and limited accessibility of these procedures to various patient populations. Thus, the future growth and adoption of ambulatory spine surgery depends on addressing these concerns by developing evidence-based guidelines for patient- and procedure selection, creating risk-stratification tools, devising appropriate discharge recommendations, and optimizing care protocols to ensure that safety, efficacy and outcomes are maintained. Other avenues that may allow for more widespread use of ASCs include the use of electronic health tools for post-operative monitoring after discharge from the ASC, increasing accessibility of ambulatory procedures to eligible populations, and identifying systemic inefficiencies and implementing process-improvement measures to optimize patient-selection, scheduling and peri-operative management. The success of ambulatory surgery ultimately depends not only on the surgical procedure, but also on its organization upstream and downstream. It provides an exciting and burgeoning avenue for innovation, cost-reduction and value-creation.
2019 Journal of Spine Surgery. All rights reserved.