Elective surgery is non-emergency surgery which is planned, allowing the patient and doctor to determine the best time and place for it. There are a wide range of procedures which could be considered elective, ranging from a hip replacement to a rhinoplasty, and elective surgical procedures are offered at most hospitals. The primary advantage of elective surgery is that it has a much more controllable and predictable outcome, since the variant of chance and emergency circumstances is removed.
Some elective procedures are medically necessary, but not urgent. These types of surgeries are usually discussed at length with a doctor before the surgery takes place, and the patient may seek out second opinions and appointments with other surgeons to find the best surgeon for his or her needs. A lumpectomy to remove a lump from the breast is an example of a medically necessary emergency surgery.
Other elective procedures are considered to be cosmetic in nature, which means that they do not have a direct medical value. For the patient, however, they may be very beneficial to self esteem and social standing. For example, a procedure to remove a port wine stain on the face is an elective cosmetic surgery, but the removal of the port wine stain will make a large difference in the patient's life.
Sometimes, the difference between “elective surgery” and “optional surgery” is confused, especially by insurance companies, who generally like to avoid paying for procedures which are not medically necessary. An insurance company may decline to pay for knee replacement surgery, under the argument that the patient will not die without it, even if his or her quality of life will be greatly reduced, and a doctor could argue that the procedure was medically necessary. This can lead to battles between patients and their insurance companies in an attempt to get an elective procedure covered, and it is a very good idea to check with an insurance company about a surgery's status before undergoing elective surgery.
Although elective surgery takes place in a non-emergency situation, allowing for greater control, it can still be dangerous. The patient is at risk for adverse reactions to anesthesia, infections, and a variety of surgical complications which should all be discussed before the surgery takes place. Typically, surgeons like to run tests and meet with patients before operating, to confirm that the patients are good candidates for the surgery, and patients will be expected to follow aftercare instructions and attend follow up appointments to monitor the success of the surgery.