General Surgery: What Is General Surgery?

What Does a General Surgeon Do?

General surgery, general surgeons, general surgeons image,
General Surgeons in the OR. Image: Getty

Definition: General surgery is the surgical specialty that primarily focuses on the abdominal organs but may include many other types of surgical procedures performed on blood vessels, glands, surgical treatment, trauma surgery, skin procedures and cancer treatment.  

Despite the term "general", surgeons that practice general surgery are highly skilled surgeons that typically operate on common abdominal complaints including appendicitis, hernias, gallbladder surgeries, stomach and intestinal issues.

 This focus on the abdomen is not absolute, as general surgeons may specialize in a type of surgery, such as treating cancer or burns, that requires the surgeon to be able to perform procedures on multiple areas of the body.

General surgeons can be found practicing many types of surgery, and the broad based nature of their education makes it possible for general surgeons to perform many procedures in the performance of their jobs.  Some may choose to go on to a specialty, but others enjoy the variety that makes up the day of a true general surgeon, and practice a wide assortment of procedures. 

Training as a Surgeon

Medical Students who want to be surgeons first apply to a surgical residency program. A surgical residency begins with a first year, which is called the intern year, followed by four additional years of surgical training.

Any surgeon who works in a surgical specialty, such as cardiothoracic surgery, starts their training with five years of general surgery training followed by additional years of specialty training.


Also Known As: abdominal surgeon, general surgeon,

Alternate Spellings: general surgeon

Examples: After the patient was diagnosed with appendicitis, the general surgeon was consulted to perform the surgery.

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