The ABS has created these definitions to assist patients and their families in understanding the different specialties in which we offer board certification.
Surgery (General Surgery)
A general surgeon has expertise in the diagnosis and care of patients with diseases and disorders affecting the abdomen, digestive tract, endocrine system, breast, skin, and blood vessels. A general surgeon is also trained in the treatment of patients who are injured or critically ill, and in the care of pediatric and cancer patients. General surgeons are skilled in the use of minimally invasive techniques and endoscopies.
Common conditions treated by general surgeons include hernias, gallstones, appendicitis, breast tumors, thyroid disorders, pancreatitis, bowel obstructions, colon inflammation, and colon cancer. Some general surgeons pursue additional training and specialize in the fields of pediatric surgery, surgical oncology, vascular surgery, trauma surgery, hospice and palliative medicine, transplant surgery, and others.
A vascular surgeon has expertise in the diagnosis and management of patients with disorders of the arterial, venous and lymphatic systems, excluding vessels of the brain and the heart. Vascular surgeons have significant experience in providing comprehensive care to patients with all types of vascular disease, including diagnosis, medical treatment and reconstructive vascular surgical and endovascular techniques.
Common interventions performed by vascular surgeons include the opening of blocked arteries and repair of veins to improve circulation, treatment of aneurysms (bulges) in the aorta and other blood vessels, and treatment of vascular injuries.
A pediatric surgeon is a general surgeon who has expertise in the diagnostic, operative, and postoperative surgical care for children with congenital and acquired anomalies and diseases, be they developmental, inflammatory, neoplastic or traumatic. The scope of this discipline focuses especially on surgical problems in utero, infancy, childhood, adolescence, and sometimes, young adulthood. Certain diagnoses may require extended involvement of the pediatric surgeon during adulthood as the patient transitions to adult surgeons and providers.
Surgical Critical Care
A surgeon trained in surgical critical care has expertise in the diagnosis, treatment and support of critically ill and injured patients, particularly trauma victims and patients with serious infections and organ failure. In addition, these surgeons coordinate patient care among the patient's primary physician, critical care staff, and other specialists.
Complex General Surgical Oncology
A surgeon trained in complex general surgical oncology has expertise in the diagnosis, surgical management and treatment, and rehabilitation of patients with cancer, especially those with rare, unusual, and/or complex cancers. These surgeons typically work in cancer centers or academic institutions and coordinate patient care with other cancer specialists. They also provide community outreach in cancer prevention and education, as well as lead cancer studies.
A surgeon trained in hand surgery has expertise in the surgical, medical and rehabilitative care of patients with diseases, injuries, and disorders affecting the hand, wrist and forearm. Common conditions treated by a hand surgeon include carpal tunnel syndrome, trigger fingers, ganglia (lumps), sports injuries to the hand and wrist, and traumatic hand injuries involving injured tendons, nerves and arteries.
Hospice and Palliative Medicine
A surgeon trained in hospice and palliative medicine has special knowledge and skills to prevent and relieve the suffering experienced by patients with life-limiting illnesses. This specialist works with an interdisciplinary hospice or palliative care team to optimize quality of life while addressing the physical, psychological, social and spiritual needs of both patient and family.