I have in an article a sentence similar to:

High stakes in surgery call for great care

My supervisor says "high stakes" is too colloquial. Is this really so and if it is, what is a more formal way to say the same?

  • "Risky surgery calls for great care."
    – MaxW
    Feb 18, 2016 at 15:51
  • 2
    Ask him if he would find "With a great deal at stake" too colloquial, as in "With a great deal at stake in surgery, great care is called for."
    – stangdon
    Feb 18, 2016 at 16:16
  • @MaxW doesn't that slightly change the meaning of the sentence?
    – N A
    Feb 18, 2016 at 16:17
  • Yes, it seems that I misunderstood. Maybe something like one of Peter's suggestions below: "The critical nature of surgery calls for great care."
    – MaxW
    Feb 18, 2016 at 16:27

4 Answers 4


The risk of serious complications during surgery requires that great care be taken.

  • I ended up using risk of complications (including death). Thanks Feb 19, 2016 at 13:21

I believe that "High stakes" has become a normalised term but it is still a bit informal. If you want to get more formal you could say "High Pressure" or "High stress" environment and note that there is "little or no room for error".

"With very little room for error in surgery, great care is called for"


For your example, using phrasing like

The seriousness of surgery
The serious nature of surgery
The patient (mission) critical nature of surgery

would have a similar meaning and be more formal


I stumbled upon this when I tried to remember a synonym for 'high-stakes' that I heard used. It was 'high-leverage', and it's frequently used to describe key situations in sports. For example, in baseball, closers tend to be used in high-leverage situations. Another one is 'high-impact'.

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