What is General Surgery?
A general surgeon is a specialist who performs many different kinds of operations, with a focus on those located in the chest and abdomen. General surgeons have specific knowledge about anatomy, surgical techniques, and wound care that allows them to excel at a wide variety of procedures.
While a general surgeon can perform many different kinds of operations, there are a few types that are most common in general surgery. They include:
Mastectomies and breast cancer removal
Laparoscopic abdominal surgery, including hernia repairs and weight loss surgery
Colorectal surgery to treat conditions such as intestinal polyps or Crohn’s disease
Abdominal transplants, such as kidney transplants or liver transplants
Emergency surgery, performing all different kinds of needed surgery in an emergency department
A general surgery residency requires the doctor to have direct experience in ten widely different areas, including abdominal procedures, pediatric surgery, removing cancer, and repairing trauma. General surgeons have the ability to examine patients, perform biopsies, and plan care. They can prescribe antibiotics and pain medication and manage complications. They are operation experts, from diagnosis through recovery.
What is Bariatric Surgery?
Bariatric or weight-loss surgery is a surgical procedure performed to help significantly obese patients lose weight when more traditional methods, such as dieting and exercise, have not helped. Depending on the type, these surgeries change the gastrointestinal tract to limit how much food can be eaten and also change how food is absorbed by the body. Of the various bariatric surgeries available, the most common is gastric bypass.
By far the most common of the gastric bypass surgeries is called “Roux-en-Y.” During this surgery, part of the stomach and small intestine are detached from the gastrointestinal tract, in order to make the tract smaller. The surgeon divides the stomach into two parts. The working stomach, at the end of the esophagus, is now tiny - only the size of a walnut. This makes patients feel full after eating a small amount of food. Then the small intestine is also divided, and after bypassing a section of the small intestine to reduce food absorption, the intestine is attached to the small stomach pouch. The patient now has a working stomach and intestine like before, only much smaller.
Because gastric bypass is used to treat extreme obesity, it can reduce the risk of some of the problems associated with obesity. Gastric bypass can help treat or reduce the risk for such conditions as heart disease, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, and type 2 diabetes. However, it is a major surgery and also carries risks itself. Any surgery can lead to infection, bleeding, or blood clots, and weight loss surgery in particular carries risks of leaks in the gastrointestinal system, malnutrition, bowel obstructions, and vomiting.
Typically patients are considered candidates for gastric bypass surgery if they have a BMI greater than 40, or sometimes if they have a BMI between 35 and 40 but are suffering from obesity-related illnesses such as diabetes. The outlook is generally good, with most patients losing between 50-75% of their excess weight in 1-2 years. However, patients must follow strict diet guidelines so that the stomach can heal, starting with no food at all, then followed by a liquid diet for some time. For many severely obese patients who have tried strict diets before without success, gastric bypass surgery is the tool that allows them to finally achieve their weight loss and health goals.
What is Colon & Rectal Surgery?
Colon and rectal surgery is the medical specialty that deals with diseases and disorders of the lower intestinal tract, colon, rectum, and anus. The specialty was previously known as proctology, and some physicians who specifically treat diseases of the rectum and anus may still call themselves proctologists; but in general that term is not currently used. While colon and rectal surgery is related to gastroenterology, only colon and rectal surgeons can provide surgical care.
Colon and rectal surgeons can offer routine screenings for common health conditions affecting the colon and rectum. They have also undergone advanced surgical training, and they are able to treat conditions affecting the lower intestinal tract with surgery when needed.
Some conditions that a colon and rectal surgeon might treat include:
Serious and chronic constipation
Anal fissures, or tears in the skin around the anus
Anal abscesses and fistulae
Colon and rectal cancer
Colon and rectal surgeons perform various procedures to keep patients healthy, such as colonoscopies and sigmoidoscopies. These tests use long, flexible tubes to examine the lining of the colon in case of pain or bleeding, or to look for signs of cancer or polyps. If a patient’s intestines are severely diseased and not working well, a colon and rectal surgeon may perform an ostomy, where the healthy part of the intestines are connected to a tube or pouch on the outside of the body. Colorectal surgeons may also remove hemorrhoids, perform laparoscopic surgery on a tumor, or even offer genetic counseling to patients with a family history of colorectal cancers.
Colon and rectal conditions can be some of the most uncomfortable problems to endure. Even if your intestinal problem is severe, colon and rectal surgeons can help you lead a long, healthy, and more enjoyable life.
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