The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary








Surgery (from the Greek cheirourgia - lit. "hand work") is the medical specialty that treats diseases or injuries by operative manual and instrumental treatment. Its practitioners are referred to as surgeons.


Other meanings

A surgery can be a place where surgery is performed, or simply the office of a physician, dentist, or veterinarian.

In British English, a surgery is a regular time scheduled by a Member of Parliament to meet with their constituents and discuss their concerns.

History of surgery

Although surgeons are now considered to be specialised physicians, the profession of surgeon and that of physician have different historical roots. For example, the Hippocratic Oath warns physicians against practicing surgery (in particular surgery to relieve kidney stones), which was to be left to specialized craftsmen.

Among the first modern surgeons were battlefield doctors in the Napoleonic Wars who were primarily concerned with amputation. Naval surgeons were often barber-surgeons, who combined surgery with their main jobs as barbers.

In London an operating theatre or emergency room from the day before modern anaesthesia or antiseptic surgery still exists and is open to the public. It is found in the roof space of St Thomas Church, Southwark, London and is called the Old Operating Theatre.

Development of modern surgery

In the UK and some other places, male surgeons are distinguished from physicians by being referred to as Mister. This tradition has its origins in the 18th century, when surgeons were barber-surgeons and did not have a degree (or indeed any formal qualification), unlike physicians, who were doctors with a university medical degree. By the beginning of the 19th century, surgeons had obtained high status, and in 1800, the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) in London began to offer surgeons a formal status via RCS membership. The title Mister became a badge of honour, and today only surgeons who hold the Fellowship of one of the Royal Colleges of Surgery are entitled to call themselves Mister, Miss, Mrs or Ms.

In contrast, American physicians and surgeons are always addressed as "Doctor."

Common surgical procedures

Of the eight most common surgical procedures in the US, four are obstetric: episiotomy, repair of obstetric laceration, cesarean section, and artificial rupture of the amniotic membrane.

According to 1996 data from the US National Center for Health Statistics, 40.3 million inpatient surgical procedures were performed in the United States in 1996, followed closely by 31.5 million outpatient surgeries.

Practice and reputation

Among all physicians, surgeons tend to be the most highly respected and the highest paid. After all, they literally hold a person's life in their hands, while MRI scans and small incisions are the closest that most physicians will get to seeing the insides of their patients. Surgery requires a sound grasp of anatomy, fast diagnostic instincts, steady hands, and superhuman stamina (one cannot drop everything to visit the restroom while performing a heart transplant). The top surgery programs in the world reportedly test the stamina of new students by asking them to observe an entire operation from start to end; anyone who leaves early leaves the program.

Unfortunately, because they are members of an elite group, surgeons have a universal reputation for arrogance. The stereotype of the "arrogant surgeon" has become a stock figure in entertainment scripts set in hospitals.

Noted surgeons

See also

External links

  • WikiMed, substantial German wiki about surgery

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