Understanding General Surgery
General surgery procedures focus on the intestines, stomach, colon, gallbladder, liver, pancreas, and other organs found in the abdomen. General surgeons may also treat hernias and diseases involving the skin and breast.
WellStar general surgeons often utilize minimally invasive techniques to minimize pain, scarring, blood loss, and recovery time. Laparoscopy, also called “keyhole” surgery, is one of the more common minimally invasive techniques. During a laparoscopic procedure, surgeons insert cameras and instruments into tiny openings (less than 1 cm) to inspect, repair or remove diseased tissue.
Commonly performed surgical procedures that fall under the umbrella of general surgery include:
- Appendectomy, the surgical removal of the appendix
- Cholecystectomy, the surgical removal of the gallbladder
- Biopsies, exploration of tissue to identify malignancy
- Thyroidectomy, the surgical removal of all or part of the thyroid gland
An appendectomy is the surgical removal of an infected appendix before it bursts, releasing bacteria and stool into the abdomen and causing peritonitis, a serious infection of the abdominal cavity.
There are two techniques used to perform an appendectomy:
- Laparoscopic appendectomy is the most frequently performed option. During a laparoscopic appendectomy, the surgeon will make three small incisions in which to insert surgical instruments that include a tube tipped with a camera called a laparoscope.
- An open appendectomy requires an incision two to four inches long in the lower right side of the abdomen. Surgeons must switch from a laparoscopic procedure to an open appendectomy is about one in 10 cases.
There are some risks associated with an appendectomy. The risks, while rare, include:
- Infection. The risk of infection is higher in patients who had an open appendectomy.
- Short-term intestinal obstruction
- Premature labor
A cholecystectomy is the surgical removal of a gallbladder that is infected or inflamed. A cholecystectomy may also be done to remove gallstones and prevent the future development of gallstones.
There are two techniques used to perform cholecystectomy:
- A laparoscopic cholecystectomy is the most commonly used technique for a simple cholecystectomy. During a laparoscopic cholecystectomy, the surgeon will make four small incisions in which to insert surgical instruments that include a tube tipped with a camera called a laparoscope. Instruments will be inserted in two other incisions to remove the gallbladder, a pear-shaped organ tucked under the liver. Patients can often be discharged the same day after a laparoscopic procedure.
- An open cholecystectomy requires an incision about six inches long in the upper right side of the abdomen. An open procedure typically requires a two to three day hospital stay after the surgery.
There are some risks associated with a cholecystectomy. The risks, while rare, include:
- Infection. The risk of infection is much less with a laparoscopic cholecystectomy.
- Injury to common bile duct
- Premature labor
A biopsy is a procedure to remove a piece of tissue or sample of cells for analysis. Surgical biopsies may be used to remove part of abnormal area of cells (incisional biopsy) or to remove an entire area of abnormal cells (excisional biopsy). While some tests are helpful in detecting masses or other abnormalities, these tests are not able to differentiate cancerous and non-cancerous cells. For many types of cancers, a biopsy is the only way to make a definitive diagnosis.
A thyroidectomy is the surgical removal of part or all of a thyroid gland. Thyroidectomy is used to treat thyroid disorders, such as cancer, noncancerous enlargement of the thyroid (goiter) and overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism).
How much of your thyroid gland is removed during thyroidectomy depends on the reason for surgery. If only a portion is removed (partial thyroidectomy), the thyroid may be able to function normally after surgery. If the entire thyroid is removed (total thyroidectomy), then a patient may need daily treatment with thyroid hormone to replace the thyroid’s natural function.