Types of Surgery
Surgery is the branch of medicine concerned with manipulative and instrumental techniques to repair, reconstruct, and correct deformities, defects, and diseased or injured parts of the body. Surgery can be classified as minor or major. Minor surgery involves procedures that do not endanger life, such as closure of wounds, repair of dislocations and fractures, and removal of blemishes and warts. Such surgery is often performed in a physician's office or clinic. Major surgery involves operations in which the greatest caution and skills are required of the surgeon, such as brain surgery, surgery of the chest and heart, and removal of diseased organs. Major surgery requires the facilities of a surgical hospital and the cooperation of many medical specialists.
Largely because of advances in surgery and other branches of medicine, the Me expectancy of newborn infants has doubled since the 1850s. Surgery has been especially successful in combating cancer, heart disease, and various kinds of malfunctions, deformities, and injuries. For example, plastic surgery now restores hope to deformed and mutilated persons who 30 years ago could not be helped. Appendicitis and the Caesarean section, once extremely dangerous, are now seldom fatal. Anesthesia, the use of sterile techniques, antibiotics, blood transfusions, electronic devices, precise instruments, and a great deal of new knowledge have so transformed surgery that it little resembles surgery a century ago.
A major advance in surgery was the successful transplantation in 1963 of several entire organs. Lungs, cartilage, blood vessels, skin, spleen, aortic valves, and teeth can be transplanted from a volunteer donor to another person, providing the tissues are compatible. Researchers in medical engineering are now investigating the possibility of electromechanical hearts, kidneys, and lungs that will be small enough to be implanted internally and will operate from an external power source.
Major Branches of Surgery
Minor and major operations that do not require the knowledge and skills of a specialized surgeon, such as repair of accidental injuries, appendectomies, and tonsillectomies, are often performed by general surgeons. A general surgeon is a physician who, after earning his M.D. degree, has spent a minimum of four additional years studying and gaining experience as an intern and resident surgeon in an accredited hospital. He can then be accredited by the American Board of Surgery. However, surgery has become so complex that difficult operations are usually performed by specialists, surgeons who have spent additional years studying particular branches of surgery.
One of the special branches of surgery is thoracic surgery, which involves operations of the chest. Many lung disorders, including tuberculosis, lung cancer, and pneumothorax, can often be corrected by surgical removal or repair of the lung. Heart disorders that can now be surgically corrected include coronary artery disease and defective heart valves.
Another branch of surgery is orthopedic surgery, which deals with the correction of deformities of the limbs, bones, and joints. Examples include repair of compound fractures, correction of congenital defects, and removal of bone cancers. Arthrodesis, or fusion of bones to give stability to joints, and arthroplasty, or construction of new joints, are other procedures performed by orthopedic surgeons.
Ophthalmic surgery involves operations on the eye and eye muscles, such as removal of the lens because of cataract and adjustments of eye muscles to correct cross-eye.
Plastic surgery gained impetus during World War II, when it became necessary to repair disfigurements and scars in wounded servicemen. Plastic surgeons can reconstruct an ear, nose, jaw, and other missing or disfigured parts of the body and can supply new outer skin by means of grafting techniques. Other surgical specialties include brain, gastrointestinal, vascular, and obstetrical surgery.