Aesthetic Surgery Journal

Date Published: 
September 2008

SUBJECT: PK safe, superior to GA

Volume 28, Issue 5, Pages 564-570 (September 2008)

Office-Based Anesthesia: Dispelling Common Myths

Douglas R. Blake, MD

Running parallel with—and perhaps driven by—the huge increase in demand for cosmetic surgery, office-based anesthesia (OBA) is the fastest growing segment of anesthesia practice. Despite this, only 2% of anesthesiology residencies provide exposure to OBA, and many practicing anesthesiologists are not convinced that OBA techniques provide safe, reliable, and effective anesthesia care.

To examine OBA techniques and safety records while addressing some of the commonly held beliefs among anesthesiologists regarding OBA.

A review of 4,800 patients undergoing 5,264 cosmetic surgical procedures performed between 1997 and 2007 at Dudley Street Operatory (licensed in Rhode Island as a Physician Office Setting Providing Surgical Treatment and certified by the American Association for Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgery Facilities) was conducted. The primary anesthetic technique was deep sedation with a propofol ketamine infusion, combined with local anesthetic injection. Intercostal nerve blocks were performed before surgery in patients who had breast surgery and/or abdominoplasty. Endotracheal or laryngeal mask airway techniques were not used, nor were paralyzing agents, anesthetic gases, or vapors.

There were 16 unanticipated postoperative admissions in 10 years, all but 3 from surgical complications (hematoma, infection, and pneumothorax during dissection for breast implants). One patient had an acute reaction to a small volume of local anesthetic injected into the nasal septum, one patient with a history of panic attacks had an acute anxiety attack manifested as chest pain, and one patient refused discharge from the operatory to home after a face lift, despite meeting postanesthesia care unit discharge criteria, and was admitted overnight to the hospital. There were no hospital admissions because of pain, nausea, or excessive sedation.

In experienced hands, OBA techniques deliver an anesthetic for office-based cosmetic surgery superior to the usual general anesthesia performed in hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers. These techniques are safe, do not require expensive equipment, other than an infusion pump and vital signs monitor, avoid sore throats and nausea, provide postoperative analgesia, and are well received by patients and surgeons. OBA presents an opportunity for anesthesiologists and aesthetic surgeons to partner for greater patient satisfaction.

Corresponding Author Information, Reprint requests: Douglas Blake, MD, 591 Eddy St., Providence, RI 02903.


The author has no financial interest in and receives no compensation from manufacturers of products mentioned in this article.

1. Dr. Blake is Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery (Anesthesiology), Warren Alpert Medical School, Brown University, Providence, RI.

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