General Surgery

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The American College of Surgeons defines general surgery broadly

“General Surgery” is a discipline of surgery having a central core of knowledge embracing anatomy, physiology, metabolism, immunology, nutrition, pathology, wound healing, shock and resuscitation, intensive care, and neoplasia, which are common to all surgical specialties.

A general surgeon has specialized knowledge and experience related to the diagnosis, preoperative, operative, and postoperative management, including the management of complications, in nine primary components of surgery, all of which are essential to the education of a broadly-based surgeon:

  • Alimentary tract
  • Abdomen and its contents
  • Breast, skin, and soft tissue
  • Head and neck, including trauma, vascular, endocrine, congenital and oncologic disorders – particularly tumors of the skin, salivary glands, thyroid, parathyroid, and the oral cavity
  • Vascular system, excluding the intracranial vessels and heart
  • Endocrine system, including thyroid, parathyroid, adrenal, and endocrine pancreas
  • Surgical oncology, including coordinated multimodality management of the cancer patient by screening, surveillance, surgical adjunctive therapy, rehabilitation, and follow-up
  • Comprehensive management of trauma, including musculoskeletal, hand, and head injuries. The responsibility for all phases of care of the injured patient is an essential component of general surgery.
  • Complete care of critically ill patients with underlying surgical conditions, in the emergency room, intensive care unit, and trauma/burn units

Medical doctors holding an MD or DO degree followed by at least a five-year accredited residency in general surgery are eligible for board certification in this discipline.

General surgeons are retained as experts in cases involving multiple trauma, burns, hernias, blunt force and penetrating injuries to the internal organs, as examples.  Diseases that general surgeons often evaluate as experts include cancer, critical illness, and gastrointestinal disorders.

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