Some health problems are urgent or serious. The decision to have surgery needs to be made quickly and there are often no alternatives to surgery. This is called urgent or emergency surgery.
Most health problems aren’t urgent or serious and you can choose whether or not to have surgery. This is called elective surgery. The more optional or elective an operation is, the more time you should take to make a decision.
Most operations go well, most patients recover well and most patients are satisfied with the outcome of their operation. Sometimes a complication happens or the recovery is difficult or the outcome is not as good as expected.
In deciding to have an operation you should consider:
- How bad is the problem? How much is it affecting your ability to eat, sleep, work and enjoy life?
- How likely is it that the operation will fix the problem?
- How hard is it to recover from the operation?
- What is the worst thing that could happen if I have the operation?
- What is the worst thing that could happen if I don’t have the operation?
- Are there any non-surgical alternatives and how likely are they to work?
In deciding whether to recommend an operation for a patient, a surgeon weighs up the same questions and recommends an operation if the operation is more likely to benefit the patient than harm the patient.