Concept of the Ambulatory Pain Physician

Donna Ann Thomas, Daniel Chang, Richard Zhu, Hassan Rayaz, Nalini Vadivelu

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Purpose of Review: Given the growing number of ambulatory surgeries being performed and the variability in postoperative pain requirements, early discharge, and inconsistent follow-up, ambulatory surgery presents a unique challenge for this patient population and warrants the presence of an ambulatory pain specialist to evaluate a patient preoperatively and postoperatively to optimize patient safety and satisfaction. This article explores the crucial role that a dedicated pain physician would have in the ambulatory surgery setting. Recent Findings: The prevalence of chronic pain, opioid use, and substance abuse is growing in this country, while ambulatory and same-day surgery have also experienced considerable growth. Inevitably, more patients with challenging chronic pain or substance abuse are having ambulatory surgery. Increased BMI, advanced age, more comorbidities warranting a higher ASA physical status classification, and longer surgeries are now all components of ambulatory surgery that contribute to increased risk too. Certain surgeries including breast surgery, inguinal hernia repair, and thoracotomy are at higher risk for the conversion of acute to chronic pain, and an ambulatory pain specialist would be beneficial for added focus on these patients. Summary: Multimodal pain control with non-opioids and regional anesthesia adjuvants are beneficial, while emphasis on a patient’s functional capacity may be more useful than quantifying the severity of pain. Despite the best efforts of patients’ primary care providers or surgeons, patients often are discharged with more chronic opioid therapy than they presented with, and an ambulatory pain specialist can help manage the complications and prevent further escalation of this opioid epidemic. An onsite anesthesiologist with interest in pain management in each ambulatory surgery center administering anesthesia and available onsite to deal with immediate preoperative, intraoperative, and recovery room would be ideal to curb and manage complication from uncontrolled pain and related pain issues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7
JournalCurrent Pain and Headache Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Ambulatory surgery
  • Chronic pain
  • Pain management
  • Substance abuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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