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Here are some brief descriptions about the different types of general surgery we perform:
This is a relatively new specialty dealing with minimal access techniques using cameras and small instruments inserted through 0.3 to 1 cm incisions. Robotic surgery is now evolving from this concept (see below). Gallbladders, appendices, and colons can all be removed with this technique. Hernias are now repaired mostly laparoscopically. Most bariatric surgery is performed laparoscopically. General surgeons that are trained today are expected to be proficient in laparoscopic procedures.
General surgeons treat a wide variety of major and minor colon and rectal diseases including inflammatory bowel diseases (such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease), diverticulitis, colon and rectal cancer, gastrointestinal bleeding and hemorrhoids.
General surgeons are trained to remove all or part of the thyroid and parathyroid glands in the neck and the adrenal glands just above each kidney in the abdomen. In many communities, they are the only surgeon trained to do this. In communities that have a number of subspecialists, other subspecialty surgeons may assume responsibility for these procedures.
Surgical oncologist refers to a general surgical oncologist (a specialty of a general surgeon), but thoracic surgical oncologists, gynecologist and so forth can all be considered surgeons who specialize in treating cancer patients. The importance of training surgeons who sub-specialize in cancer surgery lies in evidence, supported by a number of clinical trials, that outcomes in surgical cancer care are positively associated to surgeon volume—i.e., the more cancer cases a surgeon treats, the more proficient he or she becomes, and his or her patients experience improved survival rates as a result. This is another controversial point, but it is generally accepted—even as common sense—that a surgeon who performs a given operation more often, will achieve superior results when compared with a surgeon who rarely performs the same procedure. This is particularly true of complex cancer resections such as pancreaticoduodenectomy for pancreatic cancer, and gastrectomy with extended (D2) lymphadenectomy for gastric cancer. Surgical oncology is generally a 2 year fellowship following completion of a general surgery residency (5-7 years).