How Do You Define “(Major) Surgery?”

One of the questions that I have a hard time answering and struggle with is what actually constitutes a major surgery. I know this is something that is different for everyone so why am I even talking about this you ask? Well to be honest this is something that has always bothered me when speaking with certain people but it wasn’t until a few days ago following a conversation that I had with someone that I felt the need to write about it.

There are some people who feel putting an IV in qualifies as having a “major operation.” I do not. There are those who believe that anything that requires sedation or anesthesia is a surgery. I do not. And I am sure that I can find people who think the moment someone puts their hands on them in a hospital setting they just had a surgical procedure. Needless to say, I do not feel that way.

The bottom line is that everyone’s definition of what qualifies as “surgery” or even “major surgery” is different. I only consider major surgery to be when my stomach was sliced open in the middle of my abdomen thus the reason why I tell people I had 14 major operations. If I went on to include the number of central and pic lines I had or the amount of procedures that required sedation or anesthesia, I would be running around telling people that I’ve had to endure about 982 major operations which is obviously just ludicrous.

Why does this bother me so much? I think it does because I have tried so hard to minimize my disease and everything I have been through to the rest of the world. I have spent so much time and energy trying to be “normal” and not a whiny, complaining baby. I did this because most people couldn’t possibly understand and I didn’t want to be looked at as a downer. So when I hear a fellow IBDr tell me that they have had 10 “major operations” and I find out 9 out of 10 of those so called major operations were minor procedures that I had but completely forgot about, it makes me really angry.

I don’t want it to. I wish it didn’t. But it really does.

There is no answer to the question of what constitutes a surgery or a major surgery; we all have our own opinions but I just wanted to bring this topic up. I believe my friend Sara spoke about it many months ago – I honestly don’t remember, but it has been on my mind since that conversation a number of days ago.

What do you all think? How do you define a major surgery? Or even just surgery in general?


  • Jodi

    my “definition” is that you are cut open and major organs are “dealt with”. Anything that isn’t out-patient. For instance, I would not consider my shoulder arthroscopic surgery, “major surgery”.It was not “life or death, and unless something horrible happened during the surgery, it most likely would not impact my day to day life functions. If you need to stay overnight and be monitored, it must have serious complications…that’s my take, for what it’s worth. Unfortunately, you know all to well what that is like. It amazes me how strong you are and how far you have come…
    love you brave girl.