These are boom times for surgical centers.
The first ones opened in 1970. They were low-cost alternatives to hospitals for minor surgeries. They were places to go for routine outpatient procedures. Things like colonoscopies or cataract removal.
But today, they’ve become a huge business. They now outnumber hospitals. There are more than 5,600 across the country. And in the quest for profits, they have started doing more complicated surgeries, like delicate spinal procedures.
An investigation has found that you may be taking a big risk if you have an operation at a surgical center instead of a hospital.
USA Today found that more than 260 patients have died after supposedly simple procedures in surgical centers went wrong.
Surgical Center Trail of Death
These centers are not equipped or staffed for serious complications. So when a patient starts to go downhill, staff often has to call 911…for an ambulance to rush the patient to a hospital.
But sometimes it takes too long. Especially in rural areas. And the patient doesn’t make it.
That’s what happened to Paulina Tam.
Her spinal surgery seemed to go well. But four hours later, the 58-year-old mother of three started gasping for air.
Her doctors had left for the day. And nobody else knew what to do. A nurse called 911. But by the time the ambulance arrived, Paulina had died.
Part of the problem is that federal law allows doctors to steer patients to surgical centers they own. That way, they get a cut of the profits.
It’s important to be smart about the venue you choose for a medical procedure.
7 Ways to Avoid Becoming a Surgical Center Victim
A 2015 analysis published in 2015 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that adults 60 and older are more likely to be admitted to a hospital within 30 days of outpatient surgery. 
Surgery is scary enough without taking needless risks. If you have any doubts, insist on having your procedure at a hospital.
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This content was originally published here.