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.
In the field of pediatric surgery, the patient age group is different from adult patients. Hence, pediatric surgeons need to be able to communicate with their patients, especially in cases where the child may struggle with communication due to fear or anxiety. The decor of a pediatric surgical office is designed in a child-friendly manner to ease the child’s anxiety, which is why many pediatric surgical offices have rooms with toys, pictures of cute animals on their walls, or some children’s books for reading. All of this is done to create a safe and comfortable atmosphere for a child.
Pediatric surgeons are specifically trained to deal with problems that are unique to performing surgical procedures on children. They are trained to use equipment specifically designed for children. Pediatric surgeons are found in a variety of healthcare institutions such as hospitals, university medical centers, and large community hospitals.
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.