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1. What Is a General Surgeon?
General surgeons are doctors who provide preoperative, operative, and postoperative management of a broad range of surgical diseases. To become a general surgeon, after graduating medical school, a doctor completes a residency program in general surgery. Additional training is required for subspecialties such as vascular surgery, thoracic surgery, pediatric surgery, surgical oncology, and others.
General surgeons diagnose and manage varied surgical conditions affecting the abdomen, digestive tract, skin and soft tissue, or endocrine system. They perform emergency surgery and scheduled invasive and minimally invasive procedures and provide treatment to trauma or critically-ill patients. Common general surgery procedures include appendectomy, cholecystectomy, hernia repair, colon resection, hemorrhoid surgery, phlebectomy, gastrectomy, thyroid surgery, exploratory laparoscopy or laparotomy, biopsies, removal or tumors, masses, or cysts, and others. Common conditions requiring these procedures include appendicitis, bowel obstruction, hemorrhoids, hernia, colon cancer, gall stones, thyroid cancer, and others.
A primary care provider will generally refer you to a general surgeon. General surgeons work closely with your other specialists to provide a specific treatment and patient care.
2. When Should I See a General Surgeon?
You may see a general surgeon after going to the emergency room. In other cases, your primary care physician may refer you to a general surgeon after your diagnosis is made if the treatment involves a surgical procedure. The symptoms indicating such a condition may include:
• Severe, persistent, or worsening abdominal pain• Abdominal stiffness or swelling• Persistent nausea or vomiting • Lack of bowel movements• Fever and fatigue• Bloody or tarry stools• Difficulty urinating• Extreme pain, anywhere in the body• Abnormal growth or lump, anywhere in the body
3. What Kinds of Tests Does a General Surgeon Perform or Recommend?
A general surgeon may request one or more of the following tests:
• Blood tests including complete blood count, basic metabolic panel, coagulation tests• Urine tests• Imaging tests including x-rays, CT scan, MRI, ultrasound, mammography• Electrocardiogram• Endoscopy including colonoscopy esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD), and more
4. What Kinds of Procedures Does a General Surgeon Perform or Recommend?
General surgeons perform a broad range of surgical procedures. Common procedures performed by general surgeons include:
• Appendectomy (removal of appendix)• Hernia repair (inguinal, femoral, or hiatal hernia)• Thyroid removal surgery• Breast surgery including biopsy, lumpectomy (removal of breast tumor), and mastectomy (removal of all or part of breast)• Gall bladder removalColon and rectal surgery including colectomy, colostomy, hemorrhoidectomy• Skin grafting• Weight loss surgery (Bariatric surgery, gastric restrictive surgery, Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery)
5. What Questions Should I Ask a General Surgeon?
You may want to ask these kinds of questions:
• What is my diagnosis? Why do I need this operation?What are the risks and complications associated with either having or not having this procedure?• Are there any non-surgical treatment options available for me?• Do you perform this operation regularly? What is the success rate of this surgery?• How will this surgery be performed? How long will this operation last for?• What type of anesthesia will be used?• How should I prepare before going for the surgery?• How long will my recovery take?• Should I continue taking my current medicines?• Will I need any special diet before or after my surgery?• What precautions will I need to help with my recovery?• How should I prepare my home for when I come home from surgery?• Will I need antibiotics or pain killers after my operation?• When will I be able to resume to my routine activities and work?• Will I need routine follow-up after my operation? How often should I contact you?• What signs should I be watchful for?