Call Us: 703.273.2398

All Articles

Emergency, Elective and Cosmetic Surgery

Elective Eye Surgery.  Randall Wong, M.D., Retina Specialist, Fairfax, VirginiaThere are different types of surgery; emergency, semi-elective, elective and cosmetic.  The differences lie between the timing (immediate), loss of life or function…or cost.  Emergency surgery must be completed immediately to avoid death, loss of a limb or organ providing a specific function.

Emergency Eye Surgery

There are two situations where retina surgery is an emergency; intraocular infection (endophthalmitis) and a retinal detachment where the macula is attached, but the retina immediately above the macula is detached.

Intraocular infection can permanently blind within hours.  A retinal detachment above the macula may spread below and detach the macula, potentially causing permanent loss of (some) vision.  If the macula is re-attached successfully, there is no guarantee full vision will return.  Thus, we try to operate before the macula detaches.

Semi-Elective Retina Surgery

Repair of an old retinal detachment, removal of ERM, closure of a macular hole are examples of semi-elective surgery.  In my opinion, the visual prognosis worsens the longer you wait.  In other words, the longer you wait to have surgery, even if performed successfully, the worse your resultant vision may be.

Cataract Surgery is Elective Eye Surgery

Cataract surgery and removal of floaters are great examples of “elective” surgery.  Elective means the timing of the surgery is up to the patient and is optional.  The timing has no effect on the outcome or results.  In both situations, there is loss of function, that is, patients can not see.

Elective procedures, however, can be covered by insurance.  Elective simply means the timing of the surgery doesn’t matter.  Insurance usually provides coverage for health problems which can be corrected.  In this example, vision is restored.

Elective Surgery is Covered

Cosmetic surgery and elective surgery are both time independent, both are optional, but cosmetic does not involve loss of function.

There is no retinal cosmetic surgery example, but other examples of purely cosmetic surgery include facelifts, breast augmentation, liposuction, etc.

Cosmetic surgery, or aesthetic surgery, does not deal with conditions related to loss of function.  It is elective and in most cases, not covered by insurance.

What Does This Mean?

I wrote this due to the many questions I receive about insurance coverage.  Emergency and Semi-Elective surgery seem pretty intuitive, but I found the differences between elective and cosmetic surgery were less clear.

If you classify surgery by the function intended to cure, you’ll have a much easier time understanding the utility, purpose and insurance ramifications.


Currently, I see patients with retinal diseases; macular degeneration, retinal detachment, macular holes, macular pucker within several different's a different arrangement, but it allows more continuous care with many eye specialists. In addition, I am very accessible via the web. To schedule your own appointment, call any of the numbers below.

Virginia Lasik | Office of Anh Nguyen, M.D.
Randall V. Wong, M.D.
Contact: Layla

A: 431 Park Avenue, Suite 103 • Falls Church, Virginia 22046
Ph: 703.534. 4393
View Map

Dressler Ophthalmology Associates, PLC
Randall V. Wong, M.D.
Contact: Ashley (Surgery/Web)
Chrissy Megargee (Web)

A: 3930 Pender Drive, Suite 10 • Fairfax, Virginia 22030
Ph: 703.273.2398
F: 703.273.0239
View Map