What Does General Surgery Include?

In the event that your doctor recommends surgical treatment for a health condition, you may meet with a general surgeon to discuss your options, reports WebMD. What exactly is a general surgeon and what kind of procedures do they specialize in?

A general surgeon's training centers around patient treatment for injury and illness through surgical means (per WebMD). For most, their educational background includes medical school, graduating with an MD degree, and spending five or more years completing surgical residencies. A general surgeon must also pass the General Surgery Qualifying Examination and the General Surgery Certifying Examination within seven years' time from residency completion. The scope of a general surgeon's expertise is vast, ranging from knowledge of anatomy to immunology, physiology, nutrition, metabolism, wound healing, intensive care, and more, explains the American College of Surgeons (ACS). Even so, general surgery is still considered a specialty in itself, via the ACS. Which procedures fall under the category of general surgery?

General surgeons work across nine different areas of surgery

The ACS outlines that general surgeons are skilled in the diagnosis, preoperative, operative, and postoperative care of patients as it relates to nine central areas of surgery. These areas include the abdomen, alimentary tract, head and neck, endocrine system, vascular system, skin, breast, and soft tissue, as well as knowledge of surgical oncology, trauma management, and critically-ill patient care.

Dr. David Welsh, a general surgeon of more than 30 years who was featured in the American Medical Association's (AMA) "Shadow Me" Specialty Series, tells AMA what's involved in the day-to-day life of a general surgeon. "The most challenging aspect of caring for patients as a general surgeon is the possibility of needing to deal with a wide range of surgical problems," Dr. Welsh explains. "A general surgeon may be called on to deal with abdominal complaints, trauma, ENT, and orthopedic challenges. It is not uncommon to deal with GI complaints, internal medicine challenges and even dermatology." Examples of various conditions that a general surgeon may be called on to treat include gallstones, appendicitis, a hernia, or an open wound due to injury (per WebMD). In addition, general surgeons often conduct tonsillectomies, as well as laparoscopic surgeries.