General surgeons perform wide range of surgeries

Ever wondered exactly what a general surgeon does and how his or her patients arrive in the office? Check out what Ben Hanshaw, DO, a general surgeon and an independent member of the HonorHealth medical staff, has to say:

Q. What types of surgeries does a general surgeon do?

A general surgeon can perform a broad range of surgical procedures on soft tissues, anything from excising small skin lesions and cysts up to larger cases like colectomies (removal of some or all of the colon), procedures on the bowel and liver including gallbladder removal, and complex hernia repairs.


As general surgeons, we have a broad range of training, knowledge and skills and can perform surgery for many different problems. Many of these surgeries are minimally invasive, with small incisions that allow patients to heal more quickly and experience less pain and blood loss.

Q. Do most patients see a general surgeon via referral from a family medicine physician or from a specialist?


We typically see most of our patients as referrals from their primary care physicians, but we do get referrals from specialists as well. Specialists who refer patients to us include gastroenterologists, oncologists and other medical subspecialties.


Q. What education and training are required for a general surgeon?


Like all physicians, we have four years of medical school, and then a minimum of five years of additional training in surgical residency.


Some general surgeons perform vascular surgery and trauma surgery, which always involves critical care. Many general surgeons go on to do two- to three-year fellowships in such surgical subspecialties as:   

Orthopedic (bones and joints) and urology are their own surgical specialties.


Q. Does a general surgeon do most surgeries in an outpatient facility or in a hospital?


It’s typically a mix of both. Many of our elective surgeries are done at outpatient centers, but we also perform elective/outpatient surgery in the hospital.


Q. If it’s outpatient surgery, do patients always go home the same day?


Yes, patients typically do go home the same day if they’re having outpatient/elective surgery. But going home completely depends on the patient and the surgery being done. The most common reason a patient may need to stay in the hospital after surgery is for intravenous pain medication that can’t be taken at home.


Q. Does a general surgeon visit his/her patients in the hospital after surgery?


Absolutely! Seeing my patients after a surgery is one of the most important parts of my job. If patients stay in the hospital after any sort of surgical intervention, I see them the next day and each day they’re in the hospital.