What Is Elective Surgery?

Elective surgery is a medically necessary but non-emergency operation that can be delayed for more than a day. For instance, erectile dysfunction (ED) surgery for those opting not to take ED drugs on a regular basis will be a good example of elective surgery. Patients in need of emergency surgery, on the other hand, are those whose life is in danger and who need to be operated within 24 hours.

Usually, an elective operation is performed in a procedure room or an operating theater by a surgeon. Rarely are these operations performed without anesthesia as ‘elective’ doesn’t mean ‘non-invasive’.

Types of elective surgery

Non-urgent type: Encompasses cases that don’t have the likelihood of becoming or developing into an emergency. Such cases are not likely to deteriorate quickly although they can cause pain, dysfunction and even disability with time. Surgery procedures of this kind are supposed to be performed within one year.

Semi-urgent type: Also encompasses cases that are not likely to become or develop into an emergency. However, these cases can deteriorate faster, so the surgery procedures are supposed to be performed within three months.

Examples of operations termed as elective

Cosmetic surgery: A wide range of invasive procedures whose aim is to change the physical appearance of the patient; for example, nose surgery, abdominoplasty (tummy tuck), breast implants placements and rhytidectomy (facelift).

Phacoemulsification surgery: That is a good example of elective surgery involving an ophthalmic operation. A cataract is a common vision condition that mostly affects the elderly. It develops very slowly, usually for years. Although the necessary operation is technically an elective (optional) one, if not addressed in time, the condition leads to blindness.

Non-emergency cardiovascular surgery: Unlike the emergency one, these kinds of procedures can be done whenever both the surgeon and patient are ready. As an example, this type may involve pacemaker implantation (angioplasty). The main reason behind this type of elective surgery is to extend the life of the patient.

Additionally, such common surgical operations like mastectomy (especially preventive one), kidney transplantation and tonsillectomy also fall under elective surgery.


According to professional surgeons, elective surgery may produce permanent results at once, while some may need follow-up procedures to make the results permanent. In fact, it all depends on the type of elective procedure performed and the condition addressed. The bottom line is that conditions requiring elective surgery are not life-threatening, at least in the short run.