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What Is An Elective Surgery?

Hospitals and clinics worldwide facilitate a spectrum of surgeries. Some of these are simple and quick. Senior citizens may undergo cataract laser treatment, while children might need surgical treatment for a severe injury.

But surgeons also perform complicated operations, from appendectomy to cancer surgery. Surgeries fall under two main types: urgent or emergency surgery and elective surgery.

An elective surgery is a type of surgery that is chosen by the patient, rather than being medically necessary. Elective surgeries are typically performed for cosmetic reasons, but can also be done to correct a functional problem. An example of an elective surgery is the surgery done for sleep apnea – a surgery done if CPAP machine treatment is ineffective. The decision to have elective surgery is usually made after consulting with a doctor and considering all of the risks and benefits.

In this article, we will discuss elective surgery in more detail, including the different types that are available, the risks involved, and what you can expect during and after the procedure.

What is the meaning of elective surgery?

Contrary to emergency surgeries, elective surgeries are planned ahead of time. Patients need to undergo these operations, but they are not required immediately.

However, it is wrong to think that elective surgeries are simply optional. Several elective surgeries are crucial for the patients’ health and lives.

Elective surgeries are also called non-urgent surgeries and time-sensitive surgeries.

How do you know if a surgery is elective?

Unfortunately, there is no set definition of what constitutes an elective surgery. It’s a judgment call made by each individual doctor or patient.

Some surgeries are clearly required for health reasons. If you need a surgery to remove an infection, treat an injury or fix a birth defect, it’s probably not optional. Other surgeries are less clear-cut. For example, cosmetic surgery is often considered to be elective because it doesn’t cure any illness or injury — it’s just done to improve appearance.

If you’re not sure whether a surgery is required or optional, ask your doctor if you can wait until after your next checkup before scheduling the operation. If the doctor says no, then it’s almost certainly necessary medical care and therefore not elective at all.

What are the examples of elective surgeries?

  1. Cosmetic surgeries are mostly optional operations that enhance the patients’ beauty and aesthetic appeal. These include facelift, nose jobs, breast augmentation, liposuction, and lip augmentation.
  1. Ear tube surgeries help young children with middle ear infections.

These happen when bacteria and viruses infect a child’s ear and fill it with pus and fluids. As it worsens, this infection can hit the eardrums, causing pain and hearing damage.

  1. Tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy remove the tonsils and the adenoid glands. Also usually done among children, these operations treat the chronic infection which makes the said organs swell.
  1. Bariatric surgery helps overweight and morbidly obese patients lose weight by altering their digestive systems.

This surgery makes their stomach and intestines smaller, improving nutrient absorption and appetite sizes.

  1. Hernia repair surgery fixes the bulge of the intestines that push the surrounding muscles. If left untreated, a hernia can cause vomiting and intense pain.

Worse, it can suffocate and entangle the intestines, leading to death.

  1. Cataract surgery takes out the patient’s clouded lens damaged by cataracts. Surgeons and eye doctors use ultrasound probes and lasers during the procedure.
  1. Spinal fusion surgery welds small bones in the spine to treat scoliosis, spinal infection, or tumors, among other illnesses.

How do doctors decide on which elective surgery to perform?

Time is the most crucial factor that separates elective surgeries from urgent ones. Doctors and surgeons also conduct tests to determine the appropriate surgical treatment.

These tests include x-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (or MRI), computed tomography scan (or CT scan), electrocardiograms, and ultrasound.

Because of this multi-disciplinary approach, elective surgery requires the help of different medical health practitioners like radiologists and nutritionists.

How are elective surgeries classified in Australia?

Australia has one of the most advanced health care systems in the world.

Given how elective surgeries are so diverse, the Department of Health of the Government of Western Australia subdivides elective surgeries into three categories:

  • Category 1 or urgent elective surgeries can quickly worsen into an emergency, so the patient must be surgically treated within 30 days.
  • Category 2 or semi-urgent elective surgeries include operations that bring pain and hardship but are unlikely to become an emergency or worsen rapidly.

Patients under this category must undergo surgery within 90 days.

  • Category 3 or non-urgent elective surgeries treat diseases and disabilities that cause pain but will not cause any emergency.

The patient may be admitted for surgery anytime within the year (365 days).

Medical and surgical specialists assess a patient’s need for elective surgery based on his condition’s severity and if it can deteriorate quickly. The schedule of the surgery depends on the hospital’s capacity as well.

What should patients consider before taking an elective surgery?

Since patients can prepare ahead of time before elective surgery, they have the opportunity to assess the operation and make themselves ready.

These are the factors that patients and their family members may consider before elective surgery:

  1. Diet. Some surgeries may require the patients to avoid certain foods and drinks before the operation. Patients should also know if they have to undergo a fasting period as well.
  1. Medicines. Ask the physician or the surgeon if a specific medication is necessary before and after the surgery. The patients must know as well if they should avoid taking supplements or multivitamins in the meantime.
  1. Anesthesia. If children go through elective surgery, their parents or guardians should explain that anesthesia will help them feel no pain during the operation. Currently, anesthesia side-effects are rare.
  1. Post-operation pain. Patients should also ask about the pain they will feel after the surgery. They should consider if they would need pain relievers during their recovery as well.
  1. Admission to the hospital. It is crucial to know where the surgical patient will recover. Should he stay in the hospital after the surgery? Or can he heal from the operation at his home? This factor also affects how much they have to pay to the hospital.
  1. Rehabilitation. Will the patient have to go through physical therapy or speech therapy after the surgery? The answer is relevant for patients with nervous system damage or cleft palate, for example.
  1. Check-ups. The patients should also know the schedule of post-operation consultations and check-ups that will guide them to recovery.

They can also ask their surgeons and physicians before consenting to the operation. After all, patients have to sign the permission for the surgery and consult their insurance provider.

How can patients prepare for elective surgery?

Dr. Alejandro Sanz, a surgeon at the OSF Health Care System, says that elective surgeries have an inherent benefit: patients have the opportunity to enhance their health before the operation.

Furthermore, surgeries may take much of the patients’ energy and time, so they must aim for a quicker recovery and better health.

Patients can prepare themselves for elective surgery by doing the following:

  • They should avoid using smoking and consuming sugary food since these can slow down recovery. These harmful habits can also cause complications and wound infections.
  • Patients should exercise since this will improve their overall health and wellness. A healthy lifestyle will also help them lose weight.
  • Surgical patients must eat healthy food like fruits and vegetables.


An elective surgery is a type of surgery that is performed at the patient’s request, rather than out of necessity. Elective surgeries are typically performed to improve the patient’s appearance or to correct a cosmetic problem. While elective surgeries are not usually covered by insurance, they can often be performed at a lower cost than traditional surgeries.

Elective surgeries can range from simple procedures, such as laser hair removal, to more complex surgeries, such as facelifts. In general, elective surgeries are safe and effective when performed by a qualified surgeon. However, as with any type of surgery, there is always a risk of complications.

Patients should carefully consider their options before undergoing any type of surgery. They should consult with a qualified surgeon to discuss the risks and benefits of the procedure. Patients should also make sure that they are healthy enough to undergo surgery and that they understand the potential risks and complications.


  1. What is an elective surgery?

An elective surgery is a non-emergency surgery that is scheduled in advance. Elective surgeries are usually performed to treat conditions that are not life-threatening, but can improve the quality of life for the patient.

  1. What are some common elective surgeries?

Some common elective surgeries include, but are not limited to:

-Knee or hip replacement
-Cataract surgery
-Breast augmentation
-Tummy tuck

  1. How do I know if I need an elective surgery?

Your physician will usually recommend an elective surgery if they believe it will improve your quality of life. Elective surgeries are typically not covered by insurance, so you will need to discuss the cost with your doctor in advance.

  1. What are the risks of elective surgery?

As with any surgery, there are some risks associated with elective surgery. These risks include, but are not limited to:

-Blood clots
-Nerve damage
-Reaction to anesthesia

  1. How do I prepare for an elective surgery?

Your physician will give you specific instructions on how to prepare for your surgery, depending on the type of surgery you are having. Generally, you will be asked to avoid eating or drinking for a certain period of time before the surgery. You will also need to arrange for someone to drive you home after the surgery.

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