Are you considering a career as a pediatric surgeon but unsure about what it takes? Let’s delve into what this profession entails and what you need to know to embark on this fulfilling medical journey.

What Is a Pediatric Surgeon

Pediatrics is the branch of medicine that deals with the healthcare of children, from birth until they are 18-year old adults. The word ‘pediatrics’ is derived from two Greek words: ‘pais’, meaning child; ‘iatros’, meaning healer. A pediatrician is a doctor who treats illnesses in children. Unlike pediatricians, a pediatric surgeon is trained to perform surgical operations on children. Certain illnesses seen in children require surgical intervention that only surgeons trained in pediatric surgeries can perform.

What Kind of Surgeries Do Pediatric Surgeons Perform?

Pediatric surgeons carry out tests, determine diagnosis, perform surgeries, and provide pre- and post-op care for children. Some types of pediatric surgeries include:

  • Surgery to repair genital defects formed at birth or puberty, such as undescended testes, hernias and hydroceles
  • Surgical repair of other birth defects formed
  • Surgical removal of tumors
  • Transplantation surgeries
  • Surgeries to treat life-threatening injuries such as liver lacerations, knife wounds, or gunshot wounds
  • Minimally invasive endoscopic procedures, such as bronchoscopy, esophagogastroduodenoscopy and colonoscopy
  • All other pediatric general surgeries.

What Are the Types of Pediatric Surgeons?

  • Pediatric neurosurgeons: The types of conditions that pediatric neurosurgeons deal with include hydrocephalus, brain tumors, congenital brain, spinal cord tumors and other issues, lumps in the skull, and spasticity.
  • Pediatric ophthalmologists: Pediatric ophthalmologists handle conditions such as lazy eyes, vision correction, tear duct diseases, developmental abnormalities, and tumors in the eye.
  • Pediatric orthopedic surgeons: Pediatric orthopedic surgeons manage problems such as scoliosis, hip pathology, growth deformities, bone and muscle issues caused by cerebral palsy, developmental and congenital abnormalities, and traumatic injuries.
  • ​​Pediatric otorhinolaryngologists (ENT specialists): Pediatric otolaryngologists handle the medical and surgical management of disorders related to the ear, nose, throat, skull base, head and neck.
  • Pediatric plastic surgeons: Pediatric plastic surgeons deal with congenital deformities such as a cleft lip and other deformities caused by burns, physical trauma or injury.
  • Pediatric urologists: Pediatric urologists treat diseases in the genital-urinary tract.
  • Pediatric oncologist: Pediatric oncologists treat children with cancer or benign (noncancerous) growths.
  • Prenatal surgeon: Pediatric surgeons use the help of radiologists to catch defects while a child is still in the womb, and accordingly plan surgeries after birth.
  • Neonatal surgeon: A neonatal surgeon repairs congenital disabilities and birth defects in newborns.

What Kind of Education and Training Do Pediatric Surgeons Need?

The first step on the path to a pediatric surgeon education is to complete 4-5 years of medical school. Subsequently, aspiring pediatric surgeons must undergo a five-year residency program in general surgery or a related field, followed by an additional two-year fellowship program specializing in pediatric surgery. Pediatric surgeons must first get certified in general surgery to be able to get certified in pediatric surgery. Some specializations of pediatric surgery, however, will require additional training. 

What Skills Should a Pediatric Surgeons Have?

Pediatric surgery demands a unique blend of medical expertise, technical skill, and emotional intelligence. As specialists focused on the surgical care of infants, children, and adolescents, pediatric surgeons play a critical role in addressing a wide range of congenital anomalies, traumatic injuries, and complex medical conditions unique to the pediatric population. Their work requires not only precision in the operating room but also compassion and effective communication when interacting with young patients and their families.

Here are some essential skills every pediatric surgeon must possess:

  • Medical Knowledge – A thorough understanding of pediatric anatomy, physiology, and pathology is crucial for accurate diagnosis and effective treatment.
  • Surgical Expertise – Proficiency in surgical techniques specific to pediatric patients is essential. This includes skills in minimally invasive surgery, laparoscopy, and open surgery.
  • Attention to Detail – Pediatric surgeries often involve intricate procedures requiring meticulous attention to detail to ensure optimal outcomes and minimize complications.
  • Communication Skills – Effective communication with both young patients and their families is vital. Pediatric surgeons must be able to explain complex medical information in a clear and compassionate manner.
  • Empathy and Patience – Working with children and their families requires a high level of empathy and patience. Pediatric surgeons must understand their patients’ emotional needs and provide support throughout the treatment process.
  • Teamwork – Collaboration with pediatricians, anesthesiologists, nurses, and other healthcare professionals is essential for comprehensive care. Pediatric surgeons must work effectively as part of a multidisciplinary team.
  • Problem-Solving Abilities – Pediatric surgeries can present unexpected challenges. Surgeons need strong problem-solving skills to adapt to changing circumstances and make quick, informed decisions during procedures.
  • Stress Management – Pediatric surgery can be emotionally and physically demanding. Surgeons must be able to manage stress effectively to maintain focus and provide the best possible care for their patients.
  • Continuous Learning – Medicine, including pediatric surgery, is constantly evolving. Pediatric surgeons must stay updated on the latest advancements, techniques, and research in their field through ongoing education and professional development.
  • Ethical and Professional Integrity – Pediatric surgeons must adhere to the highest standards of ethics and professionalism in their interactions with patients, families, and colleagues. They must prioritize the well-being of their young patients above all else.

Bottom Line 

Pediatric surgeons are highly trained medical professionals specializing in surgical care for infants, children, and adolescents. Their expertise encompasses a wide range of surgical procedures, from repairing birth defects to treating life-threatening injuries. Achieving this specialization requires years of rigorous education, training, and the development of essential skills such as medical knowledge, surgical expertise, communication, empathy, and teamwork. Ultimately, pediatric surgeons play a critical role in providing comprehensive care and improving outcomes for pediatric patients, requiring a unique blend of technical skill, compassion, and dedication.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

What distinguishes a pediatric surgeon from a pediatrician?

A pediatric surgeon specializes in performing surgical operations on children, while a pediatrician focuses on treating illnesses in children through non-surgical means.

What types of surgeries do pediatric surgeons perform? 

Pediatric surgeons perform a wide range of surgeries, including repairing genital defects, removing tumors, transplantation surgeries, and treating life-threatening injuries such as liver lacerations or gunshot wounds.

What skills are essential for pediatric surgeons? 

Essential skills for pediatric surgeons include medical knowledge, surgical expertise, attention to detail, effective communication, empathy, teamwork, problem-solving abilities, stress management, and ethical professionalism.

How long does it take to become a pediatric surgeon?

 To become a pediatric surgeon, one must complete 4-5 years of medical school, followed by a five-year residency program in general surgery or a related field, and then an additional two-year fellowship program specializing in pediatric surgery.