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Careers in Medicine: Specialty Information

General Surgery

Nature of the work

Surgeons specialize in the treatment of injury, disease, and deformity through operations. Using a variety of instruments, and with patients under anesthesia, a surgeon corrects physical deformities, repairs bone and tissue after injuries, or performs preventive surgeries on patients with debilitating diseases or disorders. Although a large number perform general surgery, many surgeons choose to specialize in a specific area. One of the most prevalent specialties is orthopedic surgery: the treatment of the musculoskeletal system. Others include neurological surgery (treatment of the brain and nervous system), cardiovascular surgery, otolaryngology (treatment of the ear, nose, and throat), and plastic or reconstructive surgery. Like other physicians, surgeons also examine patients, perform and interpret diagnostic tests, and counsel patients on preventive health care. A general surgeon has expertise in the diagnosis and care of patients with diseases and disorders affecting the abdomen, digestive tract, endocrine system, breast, skin, and blood vessels. A general surgeon is also trained in the care of pediatric and cancer patients and in the treatment of patients who are injured or critically ill. Common problems treated by general surgeons include hernias, breast tumors, gallstones, appendicitis, pancreatitis, bowel obstructions, colon inflammation, and colon cancer. General surgeons increasingly provide care through the use of minimally invasive and endoscopic techniques.1

Surgeons can receive training in the following subspecialties:

  • Hand Surgery - expertise in the investigation, preservation, and restoration by medical, surgical and rehabilitative means, of all structures of the hand and wrist.
  • Hospice and Palliative Medicine - prevent and relieve the suffering experienced by patients with life-limiting illnesses.
  • Pediatric Surgery - expertise in surgical conditions in premature and newborn infant, children and adolescents.
  • Surgical Critical Care - expertise in the critically ill and postoperative patient, particularly the trauma victim and those with multiple organ dysfunction.
  • Vascular Surgery - expertise in surgical disorders of the blood vessels, excluding the intercranial vessels or the heart.

Training/residency information

The residency for general surgery is five years. Up to 2 years of additional training is required to practice in one of the subspecialty areas.

Salary information

The annual salary for general surgeons ranges from $271,000 to $356,938.

For more information

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