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Surgical Specialties Overview

Most surgeons specialise in one type of surgery, known as a specialty. There are ten main specialties, some of which are divided up into subspecialties.


Read on for an overview of each specialty.  For more information visit our trainee section.


General Surgery

Is wide ranging and incorporates many different subspecialties such as breast surgery, laparoscopic ('key hole') and gastrointestinal surgery (on the abdomen).


Cardiothoracic Surgery

Mainly involves working with adult heart disease and a range of lung problems.



Focuses on the brain, from preoperative imaging to removal of tumours. This specialty also encompasses the central nervous system and the spinal cord.



(also known as 'ENT' - ear, nose and throat surgery) Is a very varied specialty. The surgery ranges from major resections to microsurgery, and incorporates anything from sleep disorders to cancer.


Paediatric Surgery

Involves working with children and their parents. This specialty is wide ranging, including minor surgery such as correction of congenital abnormalities, bowel resections and operations for cancer.


Plastic Surgery

Is one of the few specialties with no anatomically defined region. Plastic surgeons work with burns and trauma victims, it is much more than just cosmetic surgery.


Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgery

Is concerned with bones. Orthopaedic surgeons fix fractures, replace joints and manage degenerative disorders.



Involves treating conditions in the genitourinary system, it encompasses incontinence, impotence and infertility and the management of diseases of the kidneys, bladder and prostate.


Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery

Focuses on the face and mouth. The majority of operating time is spent rebuilding the faces and jaws of severely injured patients. It is unique in demanding basic qualifications in both dentistry and medicine.


Vascular Surgery

Vascular surgeons deal with the veins and arteries. They are trained in the diagnosis and management of diseases affecting all parts of the vascular system. Common surgical procedures include carotid endarterectomy, angioplasty and lower limb bypass surgery.


Academic surgery

In addition to these specialties, you can also choose to follow a career in academic surgery. This involves qualifying and working in a surgical specialty but also undertaking research and teaching.

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