• Dan Kao

What Is a Elective Surgery?

One of the biggest changes to occur when the COVID-19 pandemic began to come across the U.S. was the cancellation of numerous elective surgery cases to help stem infections, free up resources as well as keep patients and hospital staff safer.

According to information provided by the National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control, in the United States around 40 million surgical operations were performed in 2000, of which 58% were women. These figures include both emergency and elective procedures.

But What Counts as an Elective Surgery?

Simply put, elective surgeries constitute a surgical procedure that is not classified as life saving and the main purpose is to improve quality of life

Purpose of Elective Surgery

Elective surgeries improve the quality of life of patients. Some of these surgeries include reconstructive procedures such as tummy tuck, rhinoplasty, or breast augmentations that may not be "prescribed" by a doctor, but allow the patient to improve their physical condition and consequently raise their self-esteem.

There are also other operations such as eye surgery or joint replacements , which contribute to improving functional life, despite the fact that non-surgical options may exist.

Additionally, some elective procedures are essential to lengthen life, such as angioplasty that is used to dilate an artery to restore obstructed blood flow. However, as opposed to emergency surgery that must be performed immediately, this surgery can be scheduled according to the availability of the patient and the surgeon.

Popular Elective Surgeries

There are various elective surgeries, among the best known are the following:

Plastic Surgery: It is that intervention that aims to restore or improve the physical appearance of the patient.

Refractive Surgery: It is a surgical intervention that consists of improving the refractive capacity of the eye to correct any visual defect.

Gynecological Surgery: It is the one performed on the female reproductive system, which may be medically necessary or optional.

Exploratory Surgery: It is the operation that is performed to determine the cause and significance of a medical condition, or to take tissue samples.

Cardiovascular Surgery: It is an intervention that is executed to improve the cardiac function and blood flow of the patient.

Musculoskeletal Surgery: Covers the implementation of orthopedic surgical procedures.

Considerations Prior to Elective Surgery

Insurers and surgeons may have you see various specialists, including ones you may see already for pre-operative clearance. It is important to look into your insurance to make sure you know what procedures are and are not covered. Many times elective surgeries may only be eligible for partial or no reimbursement.

Although elective surgery may seem routine and simple, surgeons will want to make sure you are still in optimal physical condition for surgery. You may still need to undergo imaging, lab draws, as well as exams for an initial evaluation. This will help the surgeon customize the surgery for you and to ensure you are able to undergo the rigors of surgery.

Other preparations before the operation will be determined by the type of surgery. For example, bariatric surgery may require the patient undergo a certain amount of weight loss prior, or the need for pre-surgery physical therapy for a joint replacement.


The recovery period of the patient after the operation will depend on the surgery performed. Many elective surgeries now are moving toward same day discharge. Be sure to ask what goals you may need to meet prior to discharge, and what goals you should be working toward during the rehabilitation process. Also know what signs and symptoms to look for in case you need to reach out to the surgeon’s office or go back to the hospital.


Any procedure, no matter how small, carries risks. Be sure to go through all the risks with your surgeon and what they may do to minimize risks. Some common risks include infection, blood clots, and constipation.

The degree of efficacy, mortality, and morbidity are linked to a procedure. Be open to having a frank discussion with the surgeon to discuss all possibilities. Your surgeon can provide the patient with statistical information on the success rates that a given surgery can have.


With elective surgeries there are many different types of the same surgery with technology and procedures constantly being updated. Be sure to do your research to know what options are out there, and discuss with your surgeon with what option is the best for you!


Have more questions about your upcoming surgery? Sign up today for your free personalized pre-op consult with a Orthopedic/Spine Nurse Practitioner or Medical Device Specialist today!


San Diego, CA


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