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Common Surgical Procedures in the United States

written by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 5/19/2011

Surgeons in the United States perform millions of surgical procedures each year. These procedures alleviate the symptoms of medical conditions or prevent risks associated with some conditions. Some procedures are more common than others, accounting for a number of the operations performed each day.

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    Appendectomy

    When the finger-shaped organ that extends from the first portion of the large intestine (appendix) gets infected or inflamed, a surgeon performs an appendectomy. Appendicitis causes abdominal pain, reduced appetite, fever, nausea and vomiting. Without an appendectomy, the appendix could burst, causing peritonitis and increasing the risk for adverse outcomes. While the patient is under general anesthesia, the surgeon makes a small incision in the lower right quadrant, removes the inflamed appendix and closes the incision. Risks of this surgery include infection, medication reactions and bleeding at the surgical site.

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    Tonsillectomy

    Tonsillectomy refers to the removal of the tonsils, which are located at the back of the throat. Surgeons remove the tonsils for several reasons, including chronic tonsillitis (infection) and breathing problems caused by enlarged tonsils. Although this surgery involves general anesthesia, the procedure is simple. Unless complications occur, most patients who have tonsillectomies go home the same day of their surgeries. Surgeons have several options for removing the tonsil tissue. Some surgeons cut the tonsils out with a scalpel, while others use equipment that emits high-energy sound waves or high levels of heat. This technique destroys the tonsil tissue and reduces bleeding. Patients recovering from this surgery should get plenty of rest and eat foods that are easy to swallow.

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    Cholecystectomy

    Another one of the most common surgical procedures in the U.S. is the cholecystectomy, more commonly known as removal of the gallbladder. Surgeons perform this procedure on patients who have infected gallbladders, inflamed gallbladders or large gallstones. These conditions cause severe pain, nausea, bloating and other symptoms, making surgical intervention necessary in some cases. Before surgery, physicians order lab work and other tests to determine if a patient can safely undergo the procedure. If the surgeon performs a laparoscopic cholecystectomy, he removes the gallbladder via several tiny incisions. Some patients are not good candidates for laparoscopic surgery. In those patients, the surgeon makes an incision under the ribcage and removes the gallbladder. The recovery period lasts longer for patients who have the open incision form of the procedure.

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    C-Section

    Cesarean section is the surgical delivery of a baby from its mother’s womb. MedlinePlus reports that approximately one out of every four women has a baby via Cesarean section. A surgeon performs this procedure due to unexpected complications during delivery. Some of these complications include maternal health problems, signs of fetal distress and the position of the baby’s body. This surgical procedure involves making an incision in the abdomen and removing the baby. The C-section has several risks, including bleeding, weakening of the uterus and other post-surgical complications. These complications can make it more difficult for women to deliver vaginally during subsequent pregnancies. Women with concerns about C-section complications should consult with their obstetricians to determine the safety of vaginal birth after Cesarean (VBAC).

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    Mastectomy

    Mastectomy involves the removal of the entire breast, including the areola and nipple. This is one of the surgical procedures that have several indications. Some women undergo this procedure after receiving cancer diagnoses. Other women have this procedure after learning that they have mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. These mutations increase the risk for breast cancer, making mastectomy a preventive tool for women with this increased risk. Some women choose this procedure instead of a lumpectomy because they do not want to have radiation therapy or because they have large tumors.

    The forms of mastectomy available include traditional, nipple-sparing, skin-sparing and total skin-sparing. In the traditional form of the procedure, the surgeon removes the skin, areola, breast tissue and skin of the breast. During the nipple-sparing procedure, the surgeon cuts around the nipple and leaves the areola intact. This procedure involves a bigger incision so the surgeon can remove all of the breast tissue. Skin-sparing mastectomy results in the removal of less skin. The surgeon may use a keyhole incision to remove the breast tissue and spare the surrounding skin. In the total skin-sparing procedure, the surgeon leaves all of the breast skin intact.

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    Hysterectomy

    Hysterectomy involves the removal of the uterus. Surgeons perform this procedure to treat uterine cancer, severe cases of fibroids, endometriosis, abnormal bleeding and uterine prolapse. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reports that this is the most second-common procedure performed on women of child-bearing age. As with other surgical procedures, the hysterectomy has several types. Total hysterectomy involves the removal of the uterus and the cervix. Total radical hysterectomy involves the removal of the cervix, uterus and support structures surrounding the uterus.

    Supracervical hysterectomy involves the removal of the upper portion of the uterus. This procedure leaves the cervix intact. Some surgeons perform hysterectomies along with oophorectomies and salpingectomies (removal of the ovaries and fallopian tubes). During a vaginal hysterectomy, the surgeon removes the uterus through the vagina. This procedure has a shorter hospital stay, reduced risk of infections and shorter recovery time when compared to the traditional abdominal hysterectomy. Laparasopic hysterectomy involves the removal of the uterus via several small incisions. This also has advantages over an abdominal hysterectomy. These advantages include shorter operating time, faster recovery, reduced risk of infections, less blood loss and increased risk of trauma to the surrounding organs. Some women do not qualify for the vaginal or laparscopic forms of hysterectomy, so surgeons use the abdominal hysterectomy. This is a procedure that has a long recovery period and several risks.

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    References

    MedlinePlus: Appendectomy

    MayoClinic.com: Tonsillectomy

    American College of Surgeons: Cholecystectomy

    MedlinePlus: Cesarean Section

    eMedicine Health: Mastectomy

    American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: Hysterectomy

    University of Maryland Medical Center: Common Surgical Procedures

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