The words ‘operation and ‘surgery’ are commonly used in plastic surgery and are often perceived as the same or interchangeable. ‘I am having an operation’ or ‘I am having surgery’ seem to imply the same thing and from their general use standpoint that is true. But when viewed beyond their common usege, they are actually quite different.
Technically the term ‘surgery’ refers to the act which takes typically takes place in an operating room under some form of anesthesia. (although more minor surgery can be done under different settings) It is what the event is called and is an umbrella term for the specific operations that are performed during the surgery time period. An operation is the specific procedure(s) that are performed during a single surgery session.
While this distinction between surgery and operations seems semantical, it is of great relevance for patients to fully understand the potential risks and complications of the surgery that are contemplating or going to have. Because surgery is a collection of one or more operations, potential risks and complications are additive in nature. Illustrating this concept can be seen in the simple example of comparing chin implant and cheek implant surgery. Both have potential risks and complications such as infection, asymmetry and undesired aesthetic effects (e.g., too big or too small) but they represent one vs two operations int a single surgery. A chin implant is a single midline surgery using one implant. But cheek implants involve two facial sides (bilateral) that involves two implants. (two distinct different operative sites) As a result everything else being equal, the potential risks of complications in cheek implant surgery is double that of chin implant surgery.
This understanding allows one to fully appreciate the potential risks and complications when many different operations are performed in a single surgery. If one is having four, six, or eight different operations in a single surgery, the risks and complications of each operation are additive. This means that one of the potential complications amongst the collection of operations is very likely to happen.
‘The Risks and Complications Of Any Surgery Is Heavily Influenced by the Number of Operations Performed During It’
Dr. Barry Eppley