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Types of surgeons in the United States

Updated on May 4, 2011
Surgeons at work
Surgeons at work

After completing an undergraduate degree and then medical school, some graduates choose to complete a surgical residency program, and may then choose to spend an additional year specializing in a particular type of surgery.

If you will like to read about the education and training that is required to become a surgeon or to specialize in a specific surgical field, you can read the article on “How to become a surgeon in the United States”.

However, if you will like to become knowledgeable about the different types of surgeons that perform surgical procedures in the United States, and get descriptions of what the different surgical specialties entail, this article will enlighten you.

Types of Surgeons

Bariatric surgeon

Bariatric surgeons or weight surgeons perform a variety of procedures on people who are obese. In bariatric surgery, weight loss is achieved by reducing the size of the stomach with an implanted medical device, through removal of a portion of the stomach, or by resecting and rerouting the small intestines to a small stomach pouch.

Cardiothoracic surgeon

Cardiothoracic surgeons treat diseases that affect the organs inside of the thorax; they treat conditions of the chest wall, gullet, lungs, pleura and heart.

While cardiac surgery and thoracic surgery involve separate treatment of the heart and the lungs respectively, they are frequently grouped together in the USA, UK and Australia.

A surgeon who has been trained in the cardiothoracic specialty would have received broader experience in both the cardio and the thoracic fields prior to developing interest in certain parts of the specialty.

Colorectal surgeon (proctologist)

Colorectal surgeons treat disorders of the anus, colon and rectum. Some of these disorders include hernias, piles, colon twists, fissures and rectal prolapsed. Colorectal surgeons also treat cancer and investigate the causes of the rectal bleeding or other related symptoms.

Colorectal surgeons work closely with urologists.

ENT (Ear, nose and throat) surgeon (Otolaryngologist)

ENT surgeons specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of ear, nose, throat, head and neck disorders. ENT surgeons treat conditions such as tumors, sinusitis, birth defects, chronic ear infections and sleep apnea.

Endocrine surgeon

Endocrine surgeons perform surgical procedures on endocrine glands, parathyroid glands and the adrenal glands.

The most common surgical operation performed by endocrine surgeons is the removal of the thyroid.

Neonatal surgeon

Neonatal surgery is a specialized branch of surgery that requires advanced training by pediatric surgeons.

Neonatal surgeons perform operations on newborn babies- they work to correct serious medical conditions and disorders that affect newborns. Conditions may include abnormalities of the spinal cord, or congenital obstructions of the gullet bowel or anus.

Neonatal surgeons work with a team of health care professionals that are skilled in providing the best care for vulnerable newborns.

Neurosurgeon or Neurological surgeon

Neurosurgeons diagnose, treat, rehabilitate and prevent disorders that affect any area of the nervous system- the brain, spinal cord, spinal column, peripheral nerves and extra- cranial cerebrovascular system.

Some operations performed by neurosurgeons address conditions such as tumors, brain abscesses, swelling of the pituitary gland, head injuries and aneurysms.

OB- GYN (Obstetrician and gynecologist)

OB-GYNs are surgeons who deal with the female reproductive organs in the pregnant and non- pregnant state. In the US, Obstetrics and Gynecology are combined to form a single medical specialty. The combined training prepares OB-GYNs to be adept at the surgical management of the entire scope of clinical pathology involving female reproductive organs.

The obstetric part of the work OB-GYNs do includes operations that involve caesarean sections, pregnancy termination and abnormal childbirth. The gynecological work however involves operations on the uterus, cervix, ovaries and associated organs and structures.


Ophthalmologists are considered to be both surgical and medical specialists. They undertake surgery of the eyes, eyelids and the eye orbits. Some of the surgeries performed by ophthalmologists include cataract operations, corneal grafts and lens implants. They also treat rodent ulcers near the eyelids, diabetic retinopathy and ocular injuries.

Oromaxillofacial surgeon (Oral and Maxillofacial surgeon)

Oromaxillofacial surgeons correct a wide spectrum of diseases, injuries and defects in the head, neck, face, jaw and the hard and soft tissues of the oral and maxillofacial region.

Oromaxillofacial surgery is universally recognized as one of the nine specialties of dentistry. However, in the UK and other countries oromaxillofacial surgery is a medical specialty that requires both medical and dental degrees.

Orthopedic surgeon

Orthopedic surgeons specialize in treating diseases of the bones and major joints. They use both surgical and non- surgical means to treat musculoskeletal trauma, sports injuries, tumors, congenital disorders, degenerative diseases and infections.

Some orthopedic subspecialties include:

  • Hand surgery
  • Shoulder and elbow surgery
  • Total joint reconstruction
  • Pediatric orthopedics
  • Spine surgery
  • Orthopedic trauma
  • Musculoskeletal oncology
  • Surgical sports medicine

Pediatric surgeon

Pediatric surgeons specialize in surgeries involving fetuses, infants, children, adolescents and young adults.

Pediatric surgeons treat complications such as childhood tumors, abdominal wall defects, cleft lips and palates, separation of twins, malformations and much more.

Subspecialties of pediatric surgery include neonatal surgery and fetal surgery.

Plastic surgeon

Plastic surgeons are concerned with the correction or restoration of form and function.

Reconstructive plastic surgery is usually performed to improved function, but may be done to create a normal appearance as well. Reconstructive plastic surgeons employ their skills to correct functional impairments caused by burns, facial bone fractures, congenital abnormalities, developmental abnormalities, infection and disease, cancer and tumors.

Cosmetic plastic surgery involves techniques that are intended to enhance the outward appearance through surgical and medical techniques. People often opt for cosmetic plastic surgery in an effort to feel more comfortable with themselves. Today, cosmetic plastic surgery of the nose, eyelids, breasts, lips, ears, face and butt is very common.

Podiatric surgeon

Podiatric surgeons are specialized surgeons who perform surgery on the foot, lower ankle and lower leg.

In the US, medical and surgical care of the foot and ankle are mainly provided by podiatrists and orthopedists.

Transplant surgeon

Transplant surgeons perform surgery that involves moving an organ from one body to another, or from a donor site on the patient’s own body, for the purpose of replacing the recipient’s damaged or absent organ.

Transplant surgeons sometimes care for patients prior to, and after the transplant operation

Trauma surgeon

Trauma surgeons are specialized surgeons who invasively treat physical injuries, typically in an emergency setting. Trauma surgeons may treat injuries from car crashes, gunshot wounds, stabbings and other traumatic injuries. Trauma surgeons are responsible for the initial resuscitation and stabilization of a patient, as well as ongoing evaluation.

Thoracic surgeon

Thoracic surgeons surgically treat problems with the thorax (chest cavity), with the exception of the heart.

Generally, thoracic surgeons treat conditions of the lungs, chest wall and diaphragm.

Thoracic surgery is often grouped with cardiac surgery and called cardiothoracic surgery (see above).

Upper gastrointestinal surgeon

Upper gastrointestinal surgery, also known as upper GI surgery focuses on the upper parts of the gastrointestinal tracts.

Upper gastrointestinal surgeons perform operations on the stomach, appendix, biliary system, pancreas, upper intestines and hiatus hernia.

Urological surgeon

Urological surgeons or urologists are specialized surgeons who perform surgery on the urinary tracts of males and females, and on the reproductive systems of males.

Vascular surgeon

Vascular surgeons are specialized surgeons who treat diseases of the vascular system, or arteries and veins. Vascular surgeons operate on blood vessels, varicose veins and venous thrombosis. They may also undertake major and minor amputations of the lower limbs.

Veterinary surgeon

Veterinary surgeons are in fact veterinarians. They perform advanced surgical procedures such as fracture repair, joint replacement, oncologic (cancer) surgery, herniated disc treatment, kidney transplant, complicated gastrointestinal procedures, skin grafts and complicated wound management.

I hope this article has been of use to you. You can get information on how to become a doctor in the united states and the different types of medical doctors in the United States at


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