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What is Elective Surgery?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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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.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon297903 — On Oct 17, 2012

I need a hysterectomy because I have a 10cm fibroid. Health insurance companies call it elective surgery and they feel that it doesn't have to come out right away and not help to pay for it. It stops being elective when you have pain, discomfort and bleeding. My GYN said that other treatments won't work because of the size of the fibroid and a hysterectomy is my only choice. That is non elective and there's no ifs, ands or buts about it.

By GeminiMama — On Aug 23, 2010

Snoopy123- That stinks, I bet that was expensive. My toe caused pain and embarrassment, but didn't disrupt my life like your stomach issues.

My toe surgery went well and my insurance company covered it. If someone can prove their tummy tuck is medically necessary, they should consider it. I mean, all those skin removals after weight loss surgery get covered.

By Snoopy123 — On Aug 23, 2010

My elective surgery wasn’t considered by my insurance. Having two children split my stomach muscles practically in two. No matter how many sit ups or Pilates classes I took, my mommy pooch wouldn’t shrink. I have a toned body everywhere else, but no matter what my skin and stomach were unsightly.

Since we depend on our stomach muscles for things we take for granted. My back was working harder to make up for the loss of my stomach, so I started to have lower back problems. Despite my attempts, the tummy tuck was declined and I paid out of pocket. Not only has my self esteem improved, but my back problems disappeared.

By GeminiMama — On Jun 24, 2010

One of my toes is longer than the same toe on the opposite foot. It is causing discomfort for the bones underneath my foot because of the pressure and that toe occasionally gets corns, which is extremely embarrassing. My doctor suggests I get the toe shortened but I am afraid of going under for elective surgery. They have to separate the toe at the joint, shave off bone and reattach; they won’t just shave at the tip because it could damage something. I just want to wear flip flops with pride!

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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