Surgeon: experience, specialties and training


A surgeon is a physician trained to perform surgical procedures. It is a profession that requires exceptional dexterity and fine motor skills to perform the techniques necessary to investigate disease, repair or remove damaged tissue, or improve the function or appearance of an organ or part of the body.

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To become a general surgeon, you need at least 13 years of training and education. Those looking to specialize can expect to add another year or two to their studies. Although physicians may practice in other medical specialties (such as ophthalmology , gynecology, podiatry , and dentistry), surgery is a separate specialty and a professional dedicated exclusively to surgical procedures.


Surgical procedures are broadly classified by urgency, location, purpose, degree of invasiveness, and types of instruments and techniques used:

  • Depending on the urgency , the operation can be considered elective, semi-elective or emergency.
  • Depending on the location , operations can be described by the body (chest, colon, appendix) or broadly classified as gastrointestinal (digestive tract), genitourinary (reproductive and urinary organs), hepatic (liver), nephrotic (kidney), neurological ( nervous system). ). system), orthopedic (bones and joints) and others.
  • Depending on the purpose, the operation can be investigative (diagnostic), therapeutic, cosmetic, corrective, or reconstructive. It can also include amputation or transplantation.
  • Depending on the degree of invasiveness , the operation may be minimally invasive or require open surgery .
  • With the instruments , you can have laser surgery, microsurgery, laparoscopic (keyhole) surgery, angioplasty (using a catheter to perform surgery through a blood vessel), or robotic surgery.

Types of procedures

A surgical procedure can be identified by the suffixes used to classify the objectives of the operation, for example:

  • An -ectomy is the removal of an organ or structure, such as an appendectomy or hysterectomy .
  • -otomy is a dissection of an organ or tissue, for example, a laparotomy .
  • -oscopy refers to the use of an endoscope for minimally invasive surgeries such as laparoscopy or arthroscopy .
  • An ostomy is used to describe a permanent or semi-permanent opening in the body, such as a colostomy .
  • -oplasty is used to describe reconstructive or restorative surgery such as rhinoplasty or arthroplasty .

General operations

The list of operations performed is encyclopedic. According to a 2014 study by the US Department of Health and Human Services, the following 15 surgeries are performed in the US :

Procedural experience

Surgeons perform operations in a hospital or on an outpatient basis. The surgeon leads the surgical team, which usually includes an anesthesiologist and a nurse , but may also include an assistant surgeon, a technologist -therapist, a nurse, and a cardiologist-perfusionist .

The surgeon is involved in all stages of the operation, including preoperative, intraoperative, and postoperative care.


Preoperative care is used primarily to verify that a person is ready for surgery. This stage may be very short or require lengthy preparation, during which the person may need to lose weight, undergo a preoperative exam, or wait until the organ is received for transplantation.

The evaluation can be done by a surgeon, but in hospitals, it is most often done by a nurse. Ultimately, the surgeon is responsible for reviewing the results and authorizing further action. The surgeon is expected to meet with the patient prior to surgery, answer any questions, and help reduce any concerns the patient may have.


The intraoperative phase is the operation itself, which encompasses the time during which the patient is transported to the operating room and sent to the recovery room.

Ultimately, the operation will involve some kind of incision. For example, angiography will make a small incision in the arm or leg, while laparoscopy will require several cuts through the keyhole to insert the endoscope and surgical instruments. Open surgery is a traditional form of surgery in which a larger incision is made with a scalpel.

Before the operation, the surgeon's hands, wrists, and forearms must be thoroughly washed for at least four minutes, after which sterile gloves are placed on both hands. Sterile drapes are worn around the surgical site and surgical masks are worn to avoid contamination by droplets or aerosol pathogens.

During the operation, one or more procedures may be performed, such as:

  • Ablation (targeted destruction of tissues or tumors by electricity, chemicals, microwaves, or freezing)
  • Anastomosis (reconnection or bypass of structures that carry fluid, such as blood vessels or intestines)
  • Angioplasty (opening of a narrow blood vessel)
  • Arthrodesis (surgical joining of the bones so they can heal)
  • Centesis (removal of fluid with a needle or tube for diagnosis or treatment)
  • Sanitation (removal of dead tissue)
  • Decompression (including decompression of intracranial pressure or the spinal vertebra)
  • Excision (cutting an organ, tumor, or tissue)
  • Grafts (transfer of tissue from one part of the body to another)
  • Implants (permanent or semi-permanent implantation of mechanical devices such as pacemakers , heart valves, and cochlear implants )
  • Bandages (tying tubes, blood vessels, or ducts)
  • Prosthetics (artificial devices that replace a body structure such as a knee, hip, or chest)
  • Reduction (alignment of a part of the body, such as bone or cartilage, to correct its position)
  • Resection (partial removal of an organ or structure)
  • Stent placement (insertion of an artificial tubular implant into narrow or blocked vessels or ducts)
  • Transplantation (transfer of a donated organ or tissue from a person or animal)


The main duty of the surgeon in the postoperative period is to cope with the complications of the operation . The surgeon will also discuss the results with the patient, reporting any adverse or favorable results.

In addition, the surgeon will be responsible for ensuring adequate long-term follow-up in the event of an ongoing postoperative problem.


General surgery is the term used for operations that mainly involve the abdominal cavity, but which can, if necessary, be extended to any part of the body or health condition. Because the field of surgery is so broad, many surgeons embark on additional training to specialize in a particular condition, group, or technique. Some of the more common specialties include:

Some surgeons are not trained in general surgery, but instead become surgeons in their specific area of practice. For example, obstetrics and gynecology is a separate area of medicine in which gynecological surgery is part of the training. The same applies to podiatry or otorhinolaryngology .

Training and Certification

Becoming a surgeon is a long and difficult process. After graduating from high school, it takes an average of 13 years to complete an educational program. It can be classified into undergraduate, medical school, residency, and scholarships.

Typically, you start by going to college or university with a medical preparation program that will include biology, physics, and chemistry. After completing your bachelor's degree, you will need to take the Medical College Entrance Test (MCAT) to apply to medical school.

The most successful medical applicants must have a 3.3 grade point average or higher.

Medicine School

After graduating from college, you can earn a Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree. There are currently 141 medical schools in the United States that offer a Doctor of Medicine degree and 35 that offer a Doctor of Medicine degree. The programs are similar, but with the DO program you get additional training for your bones and joints.

During your first two years of medical school, you will expand your undergraduate studies in class (which include anatomy, physiology, microbiology, biochemistry, organic chemistry, pathology, psychology, ethics, and medical law). The second half of the Faculty of Medicine will be dedicated to the rotation of doctors in different institutions to become familiar with different areas of medicine.

In your fourth year of medical school, you will begin interviewing for the various surgical residency programs that interest you. If accepted, you will enter the program in June of the year you graduate from medical school.

Residence and license

Some surgical residencies can last up to eight or nine years, but most are five. The first year of residence is called the internship year. From then on, the next three to four years will focus on general surgery under the direction of academic surgeons. If you decide to pursue a limited specialty, such as thoracic or vascular surgery, you can expect to add another two to three years to your training.

Residents receive approximately $ 55,000 per year and perform their duties under the direct supervision of experienced surgeons. According to a 2017 JAMA Surgery study, the dropout rate among surgery residents is approximately 18% .

Once your residency ends, you will be licensed in the state in which you intend to practice. This generally requires passing a national exam and, in some cases, a state exam. Surgeons with an MD degree will take the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE), while DO surgeons have the option of taking the Comprehensive Osteopathic Licensed Medical Examination (COMLEX).

While not yet a requirement, it is strongly recommended that surgeons be certified by the American Board of Surgery (ABS). This greatly increases your employment potential, as well as your position in the surgical community.

Get the word of drug information

Surgery is a respected and coveted profession, but it remains rare, especially in rural areas. According to a 2017 New England Journal of Medicine report, shortages in all non-primary health care specialties are expected to increase by 2025, especially in surgery. It is for this reason that surgeons remain among the highest paid medical professionals .

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for a surgeon in 2019 was $ 252,040. Those who practice orthopedic and maxillofacial surgery can earn an average of around $ 300,000 a year .

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