Surgery, whether elective or urgent, is done for a multitude of reasons. A patient may have surgery to:

  • Further explore a condition for the purpose of diagnosis
  • Take a biopsy of a suspicious lump
  • Remove or repair diseased tissues or organs
  • Remove an obstruction
  • Reposition structures to their normal position
  • Redirect blood vessels (bypass surgery)
  • Transplant tissue or whole organs
  • Implant mechanical or electronic devices
  • Improve physical appearance
  • Remove a tumor
  • Repair injured bones, joints or other parts of the skeletal system

Surgery may be performed in a traditional hospital setting or in an outpatient facility. Patients may go home on the day of surgery after a minimal time of recovery, or an inpatient stay may be required.

Depending on the type of surgery being performed, there are several surgical methods that may be used, including:

  • General or Open surgery, where the surgeon cuts skin and tissues to get a full view of the structures or organs involved
  • Minimally invasive surgery, which involves small incisions and the use of tiny instruments like video cameras and cutting tools
  • Robotic surgery, using small tools attached to a robotic arm that the surgeon controls with a computer 

There are many variables involved in any surgical procedure, including type of anesthesia, pre- and post-operative care and testing, recovery time, rehabilitation needs, etc.

The American College of Surgeons recognizes 14 surgical specialties:

  • Cardiothoracic surgery – for conditions within the chest such as coronary artery disease, cancers of the lung, esophagus or chest wall, heart valve and vessel issues, etc.
  • Colon and rectal surgery – treating diseases of the intestinal tract, colon, rectum, anus and other related organs and tissues
  • General surgery – a broad spectrum of surgical conditions affecting almost any part of the body
  • Gynecological and obstetrics – providing medical and surgical care for the pregnant patient, delivering babies and treating conditions of the female reproductive system
  • Gynecological oncology – surgical care of patients who have cancer affecting the female reproductive system
  • Neurological surgery – deals with disorders of the brain, spinal cord, pituitary gland and other nervous system conditions
  • Ophthalmic surgery – providing comprehensive care for all eye and vision problems
  • Oral and maxillofacial surgery – treating a wide variety of diseases and injuries to the head, neck, face, jaw and hard and soft tissues of mouth and facial areas
  • Orthopedic surgery – devoted to the care of bones, joints, muscles and related nerves, arteries and skin
  • Otorhinolaryngology – ear, nose and throat conditions
  • Pediatric surgery – focuses on providing surgical care for all problems affecting children from newborn through the teenage years
  • Plastic and maxillofacial surgery – repair, replacement and reconstruction of defects in the form and/or function of the face and other body coverings, as well as the underlying musculoskeletal system (often cosmetic in nature)
  • Urology – deals with disorders of the adrenal gland, along with the reproductive and urinary systems
  • Vascular surgery – treating patients with diseases affecting the arteries and veins such as atherosclerosis, strokes, aneurysms, blood clots, etc.

Technologies for Surgery

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What to Expect for Surgery

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Side Effects and Risk Factors for Surgery

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Education and Resources for Surgery

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Learn more about Surgery

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