General surgeons are doctors who specialize in surgical operations for a variety of medical conditions. These doctors have a broad knowledge of diseases and are familiar with surgical procedures in all major parts of the body. General surgeons can also specialize and work in specific fields of surgery, oncology, pediatrics or plastic surgery.
General surgeons are required to complete college and go medical school. In medical school, they will earn a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.). General surgeons are specialty doctors, so they will need to go on to complete medical residencies in their field. The general surgery residency usually lasts between 4 and 5 years.
General surgeons can also choose to complete a subspecialty fellowship training program in one of 14 areas like pediatric surgery, vascular surgery, cardiac surgery, trauma, and plastic surgery.
To practice medicine, doctors are required to be licensed by the state medical board. Requirements for the license vary by state. A state medical license will give a doctor the ability to practice any type of medicine, but does not specify in what particular area that doctor has training.
Doctors can demonstrate expertise by gaining board certification in their field. This is an important professional step for doctors to guarantee patients potential employers that they have specialized training.
General surgeons become board-certified through the American Board of Surgery. These surgeons will need to maintain their qualification by completing continuing education programs, and by re-taking the qualifying exams.
Where General Surgeons Work
General surgeons can work directly for hospitals or for single or group private practices that work through a hospital. Within hospitals, general surgeons often work in the trauma units, intensive care units, and emergency rooms. General surgeons can also work in government jobs, or in educational, clinical, and research settings.
How General Surgeons Help People
General surgeons manage a wide range of diagnoses and surgical procedures for their patients. General surgeons are able to perform surgery on almost any part of the body, but may also refer patients to specialized surgeons when needed.
The residency for general surgery is longer than for most other doctor specialties. During their residencies, general surgeons will learn techniques for various abdominal surgeries, pediatric surgery, vascular surgery, and burn treatments.
General surgeons often work in the trauma units, intensive care units, and emergency rooms at hospitals and they are able to treat a wide range of trauma injuries like soft tissue wounds, cysts, and hernias. General surgeons are skilled in resuscitation and pain management and have knowledge of wound healing, infection, and fluid management. They commonly perform surgeries like gall bladder removal, tumor excision, and gastric-bypass.
Before performing surgical procedures, general surgeons will talk with their patients (in nonemergency settings) about the patient's medical history, and any medications the patient is currently taking.
General surgeons know how to treat the unique needs of many different patient groups: terminally ill patients may need palliative care and geriatric patients may need disease management and nonoperative care.
The field of general surgery is constantly changing with new technological innovations such as robotic surgery, so general surgeons must keep up with the newest surgical techniques. Many surgeries today are performed as endoscopic or laparoscopic procedures where thin scopes and tools are inserted through a small incision. The technology used in surgery continues to reduce the invasiveness of procedures and decrease the risk of harm for patients, and general surgeons are at the forefront of doctors using a variety of new techniques.
The average salary for a general surgeon in 2014 was $395,456.
Medical Negligence and General Surgeons
General surgeons perform a wide variety of procedures, so malpractice claims in general surgery have an equally wide range.
Medical studies have found that most surgical errors are linked to two major factors: a lack of technical experience or knowledge of the particular surgery, and communication errors within the medical staff.
General surgeons have to be prepared to treat medical conditions anywhere in the body, and sometimes they may lack the necessary knowledge to properly perform a procedure on a patient.
Communication is also important to general surgeons and their supporting medical staff. Errors in communication can result in operations on the wrong site, wrong patient, or for the wrong condition. Communication errors can also leave medical staff unaware of medications the patient is taking, unprepared to complete the procedure with the surgical tools on hand, and a number of other critical situations. Communication errors are some of the most common types of errors in surgery across different specialties. Read more about surgical negligence.
Another common surgical error occurs when surgeons leave medical equipment, like sponges, inside the patient. Equipment left in the patient can cause serious injury and infection, and can take years to notice.
General surgeons often operate in environments full of high stress and quick decisions, so they must possess good judgment to ensure effective treatment plans for their patients.
Other causes of malpractice in general surgery include:
- Malfunctioning or unsterilized equipment
- Failing to follow up with patients after surgery
- Misdiagnosis, or delay in diagnosis
- Nerve injuries
- Damage to internal organs
- Doctor fatigue
- Unnecessary disfigurement
- Operating room fires
- Surgery on the wrong body part or wrong patient
Experienced Medical Malpractice Attorneys
If you or a loved one has suffered an injury from a general surgeon you should talk with an experienced medical malpractice attorney.
The attorneys at Gilman & Bedigian have a track record of success in protecting the rights of malpractice victims across Maryland. Medical malpractice cases are often very complex. Gilman & Bedigian has a licensed physician on staff who will consult with attorneys about your case to locate any instances of malpractice.
Call our offices today at (800) 529-6162 to schedule a free consultation and to learn more about your legal options.