Careers in Medicine: Specialty Information
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
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.
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.
The annual salary for general surgeons ranges from $271,000 to $356,938.
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