What is General Surgery?

What is General Surgery?

General Surgery

Over the last few decades, the field of medicine and surgery has progressed in an almost unprecedented manner. Surgery, in particular, has become more accurate and precise. And while we are slowly moving towards the robotic era of surgery, it is important to recall the basics still. Surgery has diversified into many branches, sub-branches, and has assumed a multidisciplinary status. Hence, it is only human to become befuddled by the perplexity of existing knowledge. In today’s discussion, we are going to talk about general surgery and see what does this particular term means. We know that some of you can already guess the meaning of the term, but we wouldn’t do that if we were in your place! There is so much to know about the topic, why don’t you join us in this discussion? 

Defining the term

The first thing to do in this debate would be to define the term properly, right? This is what we are going to do in this section. General surgery is a term used to describe that discipline of surgery which combines the knowledge from anatomy, physiology, metabolism, immunology, nutrition, pathology, intensive care and consolidates them into a central theme[i]. General surgery is all about mastering the nine primary components of surgery, and when we use the term mastering, we are talking about all the stages from diagnosis to management of complications.

General surgery areas

The areas on which general surgery focuses are mostly abdominal. We are, of course, talking about the oesophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, liver, pancreas, gallbladder, appendix, and bile ducts. However, that is not all a general surgery is limited to. Rather, general surgery is also recommended for the treatment of diseases of skin, breast, arteries as well as hernias and traumas.


What is the scope of general surgery? Well, it is best defined by the sub-specializations a general surgeon might opt for. So, to have a better understanding of things, we are going to have a look at these disciplines one by one briefly.

1-Trauma surgery 

This is a surgical specialty designed for treating traumatic injuries [ii]. In this training module, the focus is 0n both operative and non-operative management of a surgical emergency. You must be wondering, what are the emergencies a general surgeon is trained in. Well, general surgeons are trained in managing bleeding, infections, gall bladder removal, appendix, and small bowel obstruction. The list will be a long one if we discuss the entire learning curve here, which is why we are going to keep things brief for now! 

2-Laparoscopic surgery 

Laparoscopes are instruments that come with an attached camera and can be inserted via a small incision usually made in the abdominal region of the body. The advantage of laparoscopic surgeries is that these follow the guiding principle of minimum access technique [iii]General surgeons specializing in this arena are expected to master all the protocols involved in laparoscopic surgical procedures.

3-Breast surgery 

Please note that when we talk about breast surgery, we are talking about the non-cosmetic type here only. More important to note that a general surgeon is expected to be cognizant of the nitty-gritties involved in the diagnosis and prognosis of diseases like breast cancer, apart from their treatment. 

4-Vascular surgery 

Unless general surgeons have received vascular surgery [iv] training, these surgeries are handled by the expert professionals of this field only. But a general surgeon can take care of minor vascular disorders anyway.

5-Transplant surgery

When we say transplant, we refer to all types of organ transplants here. Liver, pancreas, and kidney transplants, all of them are included. A general surgeon must be able to manage all the events of a transplant surgery on his or her own.

6-Pediatric surgery 

The age cohort we are talking about in this section is usually less than 18 years of age.


Improvement in quality of life is the biggest benefit of undergoing general surgery. However, the specific benefits are dependent on the type a patient is undergoing. For example, a heart transplant surgery is necessary for survival in most cases, a skin transplant is more about improving the quality of life. However, all of this really comes down to increasing the life expectancy, one way or another! 

Side effects

We are going to list the most common side effects of general surgery here only. While reading a generalized list is never a good idea, it can give a novice an idea about what to expect post general surgery. Pain, fatigue, swelling, numbness, and in some cases, bleeding is common after surgery.

Qualifications of a general surgeon

An aspiring general surgeon has to complete his undergraduate degree first. Then, residency training is the next step in this journey. Specialty training [v] is also a prerequisite that must be fulfilled before a professional can claim to be a general surgeon.

Situation in Pakistan

General surgeries are a costly affair in under-developed countries like Pakistan. Even though there is a decent infrastructure and barely enough number of general surgeons in the country, the surgeries which we have talked about in this discussion remain out of the reach of the poor. In fact, if it was not for organizations like Transparent Hands, the situation could have been a lot worse indeed.

Transparent Hands is the largest technological platform for crowdfunding in the healthcare sector of Pakistan. It offers a complete range of free healthcare services including medical and surgical treatments, medical camps, and telehealth facilities to the underprivileged community of Pakistan. The platform provides visibility to underprivileged patients and builds a personal and trusted bond between patients and donors while ensuring complete transparency. It also sets up free medical camps in the rural areas of Pakistan in which, free medical consultation, free medicines, and free diagnostic tests are provided to deserving patients. Donors from all over the world can use the Transparent Hands crowdfunding web portal and donate through 100% secure payment modes. They could select any patient, fund the treatment, and receive regular feedback and updates until the patient has recovered completely.

[i] https://www.facs.org/Education/Resources/Residency-Search/Specialties/general

[ii] https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/what-is-trauma-surgeon

[iii] https://medlineplus.gov/ency/presentations/100166_1.htm

[iv] https://vascular.org/patients/what-vascular-surgeon

[v] https://www.ucas.com/ucas/after-gcses/find-career-ideas/explore-jobs/job-profile/surgeon

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