Get the Facts About Elective Surgery
Elective surgeries are operations done when there's no hurry. They 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.
“If you’re considering having an elective surgery, you should follow the same guidelines you would for any surgery,” says Kathleen Heneghan, M.S.N., R.N., a spokesperson for the American College of Surgeons. “You should consider all your options and determine which is best for you."
You should understand the details of the operation and know what the risks are and any possible complications. You should also understand how the operation is expected to improve your quality of life, according to Henghan.
Elective surgery is done by a surgeon in a hospital or by a doctor in an outpatient center.
These are 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.
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 http://www.aaahc.org, then click on “Search for Accredited Organizations.” Or go to http://www.jointcommission.org and click on “Accreditation Programs.”
Learn if your surgeon is certified by going to the American College of Surgeons website at http://www.facs.org/public_info/yourhealth/findadoc.html or the American Board of Medical Specialties website at http://www.abms.org/Who_We_Help/Consumers/verifying.aspx.
Check your insurance coverage. Call your health insurance provider before scheduling any elective procedure because coverage for nonemergency surgery can vary.
“Remember, the decision to have elective surgery is yours to make,” Heneghan says. “Don’t hesitate to ask all your questions and carefully consider the answers.”