‘Elective’ doesn’t mean ‘unnecessary’

Nice to have something minor to write about. Since two recent letters have used the term “elective surgery” incorrectly, I’d like to clear it up. “Elective surgery” doesn’t mean “optional” or “unnecessary.” It means non-emergency. Like scheduling your hernia repair for next week. Or even your coronary artery bypass. That’s what elective is. If you have a strangulated hernia, or an acute heart attack, and are rushed to surgery, that’s not “elective.” This is, of course, the opposite of a big deal. But I thought some people might appreciate knowing the definition, in case they’re considering joining the recent discussion.

Sid Schwab, MD


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