Two surgeons washing hands prior to elective surgery

What is an elective surgery?

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, health care systems across the county put procedures known as “elective surgeries” on hold. Now OSF HealthCare and other systems are reigniting services and resuming elective surgeries in some areas. But what is an elective surgery, and how are they different from other types of surgeries?

“Elective surgeries are important procedures that you can schedule in advance,” said Alejandro Sanz, MD, a surgeon at OSF HealthCare Saint Anthony’s Health Center in Alton, Illinois. “Elective surgeries are different from an urgent or emergency surgery, where the patient has an immediate, possibly life-threatening issue which requires medical attention.”

Elective doesn’t mean ‘not important’

Questions about elective procedures?

> Ask your primary care provider

Elective surgeries can include cosmetic procedures like removing a mole or a wart. But they can also include more serious conditions like hernia surgery; removing kidney stones or an appendix; and hip replacements.

“Elective surgeries are vital to a patient’s health and well-being,” Dr. Sanz said. “Breast cancer surgery like a mastectomy is critical to address, even though it might not qualify as an emergency procedure needing to be done that same day.”

How elective surgeries help patients in the long term

Elective surgeries give doctors the opportunity to work with patients to improve their overall health.

“One of the benefits of elective surgeries is the days or weeks patients use to improve their health before their procedure,” Dr. Sanz said. “I tell patients that a surgery can be a physically demanding experience, so the best time for patients to improve their overall health is before an elective procedure.”

Health improvements Dr. Sanz recommends to patients before an elective surgery include:

  • Reducing bad habits like smoking
  • Exercising more
  • Losing weight
  • Eating healthier foods

“We know increased smoking and having diabetes can stop healing and could lead to wound complications after an elective surgery,” Dr. Sanz said. “So reducing these risk factors gives patients the best chance of a successful elective surgery with long-term health improvements.”

Elective surgeries are a team effort

When a patient is scheduled for an elective surgery, an entire team of doctors and health care professionals are in constant contact with each other to coordinate care and deliver the best outcomes.

“Depending on the patient and the procedure, these teams can include a radiologist, pathologist, nutritionist and any other needed support,” Dr. Sanz said. “The goal is a multidisciplinary approach that brings teams together with one goal: giving the patient the best possible health care outcome.”

During COVID-19 and beyond OSF HealthCare is constantly focused on keeping hospitals and clinics clean, sanitized and germ-free.

“In addition to our in-person visits, OSF is seeing lots of engagement with patients via video visits, following up by telephone or through communicating with patients through OSF MyChart,” Dr. Sanz said. “The goal is to always meet patients where they are at and provide them best possible care in any situation.”

Last Updated: April 13, 2022

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About Author: Alex Rusciano

Alex Rusciano is a writing coordinator for OSF HealthCare, where he has worked since January 2016. A Michigan native, he is a graduate of Michigan State University with a degree in journalism. Previously, he worked as a radio news reporter in Iowa and for 89.9-FM WCBU in Peoria.

He lives in Peoria with his wife and their pets. In his free time he likes to read, run and bake. He freely admits that freshly-brewed coffee is his greatest weakness.

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