General surgery is the treatment of injury, deformity, and disease using operative procedures.
General surgery is frequently performed to alleviate suffering when a cure is unlikely through medication alone. It can be used for such routine procedures performed in a physician's office, as vasectomy, or for more complicated operations requiring a medical team in a hospital setting, such as laparoscopic cholecystectomy (removal of the gallbladder). Areas of the body treated by general surgery include the stomach, liver, intestines, appendix, breasts, thyroid gland, salivary glands, some arteries and veins, and the skin. The brain, heart, lungs, eyes, feet, kidneys, bladder, and reproductive organs, to name only a few, are areas that require specialized surgical repair.
New methods and techniques are less invasive than older practices, permitting procedures that were considered impossible in the past. For example, microsurgery has been used in reattaching severed body parts by successfully reconnecting small blood vessels and nerves. Laparoscopic techniques are more efficient, promote more rapid healing, leave smaller scars, and have lower postoperative infection rates.
General surgeons are the surgical equivalent of family practitioners. General surgeons typically differ from other surgical specialties in the operations that they perform. This difference is most easily understood by exclusion. For example, procedures involving nerves or the brain are usually performed by neurosurgeons. Surgeons having specialized training during the final three years of their residency period similarly focus on other regions of the body. General surgeons may perform such procedures in the absence of other surgeons with specialized training. Such procedures are the exception, however, rather than the rule.