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Get the Facts About Elective Surgery

If a surgery is not an emergency, it is considered elective. There are many types of elective surgery.

Elective surgeries may be required in order to diagnose disease. One example is a biopsy to find out whether you have cancer. They may also be optional. An example is laser surgery to correct nearsightedness. Or you may have plastic surgery to replace your hair or tuck your tummy.

Just because these surgeries are optional doesn’t mean they aren't serious. Knowing the risks and benefits of a procedure will help you make more informed decisions about your health.

Elective details

Elective surgery may be done in a hospital or in an outpatient center.

These are some of the major types of elective surgery:

  • Plastic surgery. This is cosmetic or reconstructive surgery, such as breast augmentation or reconstruction.

  • Refractive surgery. This is laser surgery to correct vision problems.

  • Gynecological surgery. This is for a hysterectomy or for tubal ligation, a procedure to prevent pregnancy.

  • Exploratory or diagnostic surgery. These are procedures to determine the extent of a medical problem, such as cancer, or to remove tissue samples for a biopsy.

  • Cardiovascular surgery. This includes angioplasty or putting in a pacemaker.

  • Musculoskeletal surgery. This includes hip or knee replacement.

Knowing the risks

Elective surgery risks vary by the type of procedure and the general health of the person having the operation. Most surgeries carry a risk for infection, hemorrhage, shock, or blood clotting. Anesthesia, whether general or local, has its own risks.

No medical procedure is risk-free, but you can take steps to control surgical risks.

Here's what to do:

  • Make sure the hospital or ambulatory surgical center you’re considering is accredited. This shows a commitment to meeting high patient safety standards. Surgical centers are accredited and evaluated by the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC) and the Joint Commission. To find out about the accreditation of a hospital or an ambulatory center, go to the AAAHC website, then click on “Search for Accredited Organizations.” Or go to the Joint Commission website, then click on “Accreditation Programs.”

  • Learn if your surgeon is certified by going to the American College of Surgeons website or the American Board of Medical Specialties website.

  • Check your insurance coverage. Call your health insurance provider before scheduling any elective procedure because coverage for nonemergency surgery can vary.

  • According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, research shows that patients who ask questions and are informed about their procedures are more satisfied with their results.