BACKGROUND: There is substantial variation in the practice of preoperative medical evaluation (PME) and limited evidence for its benefit, which raises concerns about overuse. Surgeons have a unique role in this multidisciplinary practice. The objective of this qualitative study was to explore surgeons' practices and their beliefs about PME. METHODS: We conducted of semi-structured interviews with 18 surgeons in Baltimore, Maryland. Surgeons were purposively sampled to maximize diversity in terms of practice type (academic vs. private practice), surgical specialty, gender, and experience level. General topics included surgeons' current PME practices, perceived benefits and harms of PME, the surgical risk assessment, and potential improvements and barriers to change. Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed. Transcripts were analyzed using content analysis to identify themes, which are presented as assertions. Transcripts were re-analyzed to identify supporting and opposing instances of each assertion. RESULTS: A total of 15 themes emerged. There was wide variation in surgeons' described PME practices. Surgeons believed that PME improves surgical outcomes, but not all patients benefit. Surgeons were cognizant of the financial cost of the current system and the potential inconvenience that additional tests and office visits pose to patients. Surgeons believed that PME has minimal to no risk and that a normal PME is reassuring to them and patients. Surgeons were confident in their ability to assess surgical risk, and risk assessment by non-surgeons rarely affected their surgical decision-making. Hospital and anesthesiology requirements were a major driver of surgeons' PME practices. Surgeons did not receive much training on PME but perceived their practices to be similar to their colleagues. Surgeons believed that PME provides malpractice protection, welcomed standardization, and perceived there to be inadequate evidence to significantly change their current practice. CONCLUSIONS: Views of surgeons should be considered in future research on and reforms to the PME process.