Necessary surgery


Necessary surgery is a term that refers both to a medical requirement for the surgery determined by a physician and to an insurance plan's inclusion of the surgery in the covered conditions. For the most part, these two ways of talking about required surgery coincide. When they do not, the physician is asked to demonstrate to the insurance plan that the surgery is necessary by reference to the medical condition to be treated and the customary medical practice that deems it required as opposed to optional or elective.


More than 40 million surgeries were performed in the United States in 2000, with an average of 4.6 days in hospital. Not all surgery is an emergency. Not all surgery is medically required. Some surgeries are for cosmetic or for aesthetic enhancements and are deemed optional or elective, both by physicians and by insurance plans.

Necessary surgery refers to surgical procedures that pertain to a condition that cannot be treated by other methods and, if left untreated, would threaten the life of the patient, fail to repair or improve a body function, increase the patient's pain, or prevent the diagnosis of a serious or painful condition. The emphasis here is that, according to medical judgment, surgery is mandated.

Not all necessary surgery is absolutely required until the patient is satisfied that he or she has all the information needed to opt for surgery. All surgery has risks and the decision to have surgery is one that needs to be made by both the physician and the patient.


The decision to have surgery should be made by the patient after:

Only after a physician has taken the condition and symptoms into account with a complete evaluation of alternatives, will surgery be judged to be necessary. During the course of this evaluation, and after non-surgical treatments have failed, the patient needs to be actively involved in understanding the actual procedure that might mitigate the condition, the full array of risks and benefits of the surgery, and why the surgeon has arrived at the particular procedure. The patient should understand the likelihood of danger or risk if he or she foregoes the surgery and the patient needs to understand that there may be a possibility of improvement, given sufficient time, without the surgery. Before choosing to undergo a particular surgical procedure, the patient should get a second opinion about the wisdom, efficacy, risk, and benefits of the procedure.


Preparation for surgery should include knowing:



Lewis, C. "Sizing Up Surgery." FDA Consumer Magazine, (November–December 1998). .


Patient Rights and Responsibilities. Agency for Health Care Research and Quality. .

Questions To Ask Your Doctor Before You Have Surgery. Agency for Health Care Research and Quality. .


Wax, C. M. "Preparation for Surgery." http://www/ .

Nancy McKenzie, PhD

User Contributions:

Hi there, my 7 year old daughter has had tubes in both ears twice and 3 weeks ago had second set of tubes taken out. Her right ear continues to discharge initially it was somewhat bloody and whitish now it seems to be more yellowish and there is a definite smell to her ear as well as her throat. Is this something we should be concerned about as her speech is good but she has always spoken somewhat muffled sounding. She has had several hearing tests which all have come back normal but the discharge is concerning. Thanks so much!

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