Angie's LIST Guide to
Pediatric General Surgery

Pediatric general surgery follows from the recommendation of your child’s pediatrician or primary care physician. Surgery is based on the individual diagnosis, health and medical history of the patient.


Photo collage of babies and doctors.
Children often are diagnosed with illnesses and conditions that affect adults, but because of their special needs, they are often referred to pediatric specialists. Specialists in all areas can provide treatment plans to improve health and quality of life.

Reasons your child may need surgery

Instances may occur where your child may require general surgery or your pediatrician may recommend a surgical consult. Some of the most common types of pediatric general surgery include tonsillectomy, adenoidectomy, cryptorchidism, ear tubes, umbilical hernia repair, appendectomy and pyloric stenosis.

Initially, a diagnosis is made at birth or closely monitored until the child is strong enough or physically mature enough to undergo surgery. A surgeon who specializes in general surgery can perform surgeries on the abdomen, chest and other areas in accordance with the current diagnosis, treatment plan and approval from your child's primary doctor. Chances are your pediatrician or family doctor won't be performing the general surgery. A referral may be necessary, and checking the surgeon's references and Angie's List member reviews may help you make the best decision for your child's surgery.

Hearing that your child may require surgery can be an unsettling experience, especially when you have unanswered questions regarding the operation and recovery after the operation. In most cases, pediatric general surgery is performed to relieve a condition and improve a child's health.

Pediatrics generally covers patients up to 18 or 21 years of age, depending on the pediatrician and his or her business practices. Some pediatricians or pediatric surgeons treat only children up to 13 years of age, so you should discuss this issue with the clinical staff before scheduling a consult with your surgeon. A skilled surgeon who is trained and board certified in surgical procedures will discuss what your child can expect in terms of the success rate of the surgery. General surgery in pediatrics covers a broad range of surgical procedures, and your child's surgeon may or may not be specialized in one particular area.

Types of pediatric general surgery

A surgeon trained in general surgery may also have specialty fields in which he performs board-certified procedures. Common types include minimally invasive procedures to remove tumors and obstructions, biopsies and minor repairs to congenital defects. Most general surgeries are minimally invasive and create a keyhole incision so that the doctor can pass laparoscopic equipment and a camera through. This kind of surgery can be monitored via a high-definition screen. One goal with the pediatric patient is to leave behind minimal scarring. Similar to minimally invasive surgery, the doctor may use single-incision surgery to remove cysts and perform appendectomies.

Pediatric surgeons will perform more complex general surgeries if the child needs treatment for extensive tissue removal or orthopedic issues. In some cases, a pediatric surgeon may also work in conjunction with a surgeon who specializes in urology, oncology or ear, nose and throat (otolaryngology).

Risks, benefits of pediatric surgery

While you should weigh all of the risks involved with any pediatric surgery — such as bleeding or infection — you should also consider the benefits of a healthier and improved lifestyle for your child. Some general surgeries in pediatrics are lifesaving, such as bowel obstruction removals, pacemaker placements and appendectomies. Advanced surgeries — such as shunt placements, heart-valve replacements and reconstructive plastic surgeries — can be a part of a general surgery plan, and surgery services may be needed for follow up care.

Pediatric surgeons are trained to handle the delicate tissues of infants and small children. Their expertise is sought for everything from simple outpatient procedures to complex surgeries that last several hours. In some cases, a second or third opinion may aid the decision to choose surgery, especially if the surgery is extensive or complex. Discuss all of your child's options prior to surgery to have your questions answered and bring peace of mind.

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