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What Are the Different Types of Surgeons?

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Basically, the role of the surgeon is to provide medical treatment that involves cutting into patients to diagnose and repair internal issues. Surgeons work as part of a medical team, with both surgical nurses and assistants, as well as an anesthesiologist whole job is to keep the patient asleep and pain-free, as well as stable. Even minor surgeries that are performed in office require at minimum an assistant or nurse to keep the patient comfortable and ensure that things move smoothly. Most surgeons are specialized, which means that they have spent a great deal of time studying the area of the body they are focusing on. Here’s a look at some of the main types of surgical specialties practiced today and some of their subspecialties:

  • General Surgeons: General surgeons are trained to diagnose and treat patients with a wide range of conditions that effect almost any area of the body, including the head and neck, skin and soft tissues, abdomen, extremities, and gastrointestinal, vascular, and endocrine systems. General surgeons often earn additional board certifications from the American Board of Surgery. Examples of this type of specialization include:
    • Pediatric Surgeons: These surgical specialists are trained to diagnose, treat, and manage the surgical care of babies and children. All pediatric surgeons are first board certified in general surgery and then complete two years of additional training to earn their pediatric certification.
    • Critical Care Surgeons: This surgical subspecialty focuses on the surgical treatment of trauma victims, including those with multiple organ problems. These surgeons have additionally been trained to coordinate the teams of doctors and nurses needed for the care of the critically ill or injured patient in high pressure circumstances.
  • Neurologic Surgeons: Neurological surgeons are trained to treat and perform surgery on patients with disorders of the brain, spinal cord, spinal column, and peripheral nerves. They also commonly treat disorders that affect the function of the nervous system and that involve certain types of pain.
  • Obstetrics and Gynecological Surgeons: The focus of this surgical specialty is on the female patient, specifically the female reproductive system. There are several subspecialties worth mentioning here as well.
    • Gynecology Oncology Surgeons: These surgeons have received additional training (usually three to four years) in the treatment of gynecologic cancers.
    • Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility Surgeons: These surgeons are certified in ob/gyn and then have additional training in reproductive medicine. These are the surgeons who perform assisted reproductive technology procedures, such as in vitro fertilization.
  • Eye (Ophthalmologic) Surgeons: Ophthalmologists specialize in the comprehensive care of eye and vision disorders, which includes surgical treatment of all ocular and visual problems. These specialists perform operations that include treatment of cataracts and glaucoma.
  • Orthopedic Surgeons: Orthopedic surgeons focus on the repair and restoration of both the form and function of the musculoskeletal and spine issues. They can also be involved in the treatment of secondary muscular problems that occur in patients who suffer from various central or peripheral nervous system issues, such as those dealing with cerebral palsy or stroke.
  • Plastic Surgeons: Plastic surgeons are trained in the surgical repair, replacement, and reconstruction of various areas of the body. There are two basic subspecialties pursued here:
    • Surgery of the Hand: These surgeons have pursued additional training in hand surgery to focus on the treatment of patients with diseases, injuries, or abnormalities affecting the upper extremities. This subspecialty includes the performance of microvascular surgery (used to reattach fingers or limbs).
    • Head and Neck Plastic Surgeons: These surgeons have pursued additional training in cosmetic and reconstructive procedures within the head neck, and face.


Surgeons are required to study and train for a long time in order to earn their certifications. In addition to regular medical school, it can take anywhere from four to eight years to become a surgeon, and training for a specialty usually takes a few years on top of this.


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