General surgeons are trained to provide surgical care for a very wide range of disorders and conditions of the gastrointestinal tract and abdomen, operating on many different organ systems and structures.

Watch an Overview of General Surgery

About General Surgery

General surgeons predominantly perform surgery on the abdominal region, which includes the esophagus, colon, liver, pancreas, thyroid gland, gallbladder and bile ducts, stomach, small bowel and related structures, as well as providing care for disorders of the soft tissue, breast, skin, and complications arising from hernias. General surgeons are highly educated and trained surgeons with vast knowledge reserves in anatomy, immunology, wound healing, nutrition, metabolism, emergency and intensive care, physiology, shock and resuscitation, and other areas of medical science.

Although general surgeons typically provide surgical care for the organs and systems of the abdomen, many choose to sub-specialize in a certain area(s) of surgery, earning supplemental qualifications in areas such as: trauma surgery, endocrine surgery, vascular surgerybariatric surgery, dermatological surgery, breast surgery, colorectal surgery or laparoscopic surgery, among many others.

Before determining a surgery to be the best treatment option, general surgeons will exhaustively explore all other non-surgical options. If a surgery is deemed to be necessary, the surgeon will create a personalized surgical plan by using tracings, computer assisted simulations and model surgeries, among other preoperative techniques. Ideally, surgeons will operate using minimally invasive techniques, which help to encourage a speedier recovery while at the same time being of a lower risk to the patient.

General Surgery Education & Training

Like other physicians, general surgeons must complete an undergraduate degree before earning a four year MD or DO medical degree. Following graduation from medical school, the completion of a general surgery residency is required. These residencies will typically last around five years and will educate and train the physician in the various facets of diagnosis, pre-operative, operative, and postoperative surgical procedures.

Throughout the residency, the physicians will supplement coursework with surgical experience, assisting on and performing operations while under the close supervision and tutelage of highly experienced surgeons. After completing a general surgery residency, the physician may seek board certification from the American Board of Surgery (ABS).

Those surgeons who wish to sub-specialize within the field may complete fellowship training in a specific area of surgery. General surgeons who earn board certification from the ABS must complete Maintenance of Certification requirements every three years, in which the surgeon must demonstrate that he/she is maintaining a high level of skill, professionalism and knowledge. Like all other physicians, general surgeons are required to gain medical licensure before practicing medicine.