Many surgeries are considered elective which means they are not emergency procedures or necessary to preserve a patient’s health. Rather, they are surgeries patients choose to have done as a preventative measure, as a result of medical diagnoses, for quality of life, or for superficial reasons. However, that does not mean they are any less serious or without the potential for error or long-term damage.
The most common elective surgical procedures include:
- Plastic surgery. Plastic surgeries are procedures performed to reconstruct or replace parts of the body after an injury or for cosmetic reasons. Tummy tucks, nose jobs, breast reconstruction, and excess skin removal are all considered plastic surgeries. These types of surgeries are rarely ever medically necessary, but can greatly affect an individual’s emotional health, particularly after battling cancer, sustaining burn injuries, or being disfigured in an accident.
- Unfortunately, plastic surgery does carry the risk of infection and other dangers, as do all surgical procedures. In addition to surgical errors and common risks, some elective plastic surgeries are relatively new procedures. Like the recalled breast implants from several years ago, any implant or cutting edge procedure carries a risk of unexpected outcomes that may reverse the effects of the surgery or harm a patient’s health.
- Replacement surgery. Knee, hip, and musculature replacement/reconstructive surgeries are common elective surgeries that can help patients minimize pain and maintain mobility after an injury or as the result of deterioration over time. Replacement surgeries are typically recommended by physicians after a certain point, or at the onset of certain symptoms.
- Dangers associated with any type of replacement surgery include having an implant fail or become loose in the body, surgical errors, or developing an infection. In some cases, the recovery time for replacement and reconstructive surgeries may be extended. Individuals could also end up needing multiple surgeries if the first surgery went awry or caused further complications to their health.
- Exploratory surgery. Some symptoms may make diagnosis hard for physicians, in which case they may recommend exploratory surgery. During an exploratory procedure, a surgeon will typically use small incisions and technology to go into the body to look for and address complications. Colonoscopies are commonly recommended exploratory surgeries that can help patients prevent the development of colon cancer.
- During exploratory surgery, a patient could wake up if improperly anesthetized. Other dangers associated with the surgery may include surgical error or the development of infection.
- Cardiovascular surgery. There are several elective cardiovascular surgeries including bypass, angioplasty, and radiofrequency ablation. Most prevent heart-related conditions from worsening and may reduce a patient’s symptoms to improve quality of life. Every cardiovascular surgery comes with its own unique associated dangers, from equipment failure to surgical error. Most cardiovascular surgeries are medically necessary, but some may be recommended before the point when an operation may be needed.
When a physician tells you a surgical procedure is necessary, you will likely trust his or her judgment. However, the reality is many elective surgeries may or may not be medically necessary. There is often a fine line between when you should operate and when you should try other treatments first.
Every elective and emergency surgery, whether medically necessary or not, carries a level of risk. Human error, equipment error, and unavoidable complications can all turn a routine procedure into a life or death situation. If you have any doubts about a physician’s recommendation for surgery, you may want to seek a second opinion from an injury attorney in West Virginia before agreeing to and signing a consent form for a procedure. For more information about medical malpractice in elective surgeries, contact our office today to speak with a Charleston, West Virginia medical malpractice lawyer.