School of Medicine

Surgical specialities

The classification of surgical specialities varies considerably. The following list provides an overview of the nine specialities available as fellowships through the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. Many surgeons will specialise or sub-specialise outside of these areas.


General surgery

A general surgeon is a specialist who is trained to manage a broad spectrum of surgical conditions affecting almost any area of the body. The surgeon establishes the diagnosis and provides the preoperative, operative, and post-operative care to patients and is often responsible for the comprehensive management of the trauma victim and the critically ill patient. The surgeon acquires knowledge and technical skills in managing medical conditions that relate to the head and neck, breast, skin, and soft tissues, abdominal wall, extremities, and the gastrointestinal, vascular, and endocrine systems.

Sub-specialities within general surgery are commonly divided into Upper Gastro-intestinal (Upper GI), Colorectal and Breast & Endocrine. Within Upper GI further specialisation occurs, including Hepato-Pancreatic-Biliary (HPB) surgery.



Cardiothoracic surgery

Cardiothoracic surgery involves the operative management, perioperative care, and critical care of patients with pathological conditions within the chest. Specifically, it includes surgical care for coronary artery disease, cancers of the lung, esophagus, and chest wall, abnormalities of the great vessels and heart valves, congenital anomalies, tumours of the mediastinum, and diseases of the diaphragm. The management of the airway and injuries to the chest are also areas of surgical practice for the cardiothoracic surgeon.



Neurological surgery

Neurological surgery is the discipline of medicine and the specialty of surgery that deals with the diagnosis, evaluation, and treatment of disorders of the central, peripheral, and autonomic nervous systems, including their supporting structures and vascular supply. Neurological surgery involves the evaluation and treatment of pathological processes that modify the function or activity of the nervous system, including the pituitary gland.




Otolaryngology head and neck surgery

These are surgeons who investigate and treat conditions of the ear, nose, throat, and neck. These include the evaluation of hearing difficulties, sinus conditions, voice problems, cancer of the throat, snoring and nasal and facial plastic surgery.



Paediatric surgery

Paediatric surgeons are primarily concerned with the diagnosis, preoperative, operative, and postoperative management of surgical problems in children and they operate on children whose development ranges from the newborn stage through the teenage years.


Orthopaedic surgery

Orthopaedic surgery is a surgical specialty that is specifically devoted to the care of the musculoskeletal system. This system includes bones, joints, muscles, associated nerves, arteries, and the overlying skin. Much of the orthopaedic surgeon's practice involves the performance of surgical procedures, but many conditions are treated medically or physically through the use of braces, casts, splints, or physical therapy.

Orthopaedic surgeons take care of a wide variety of problems that may be present at birth, or that may develop at any time during the lifetime of the person. Such problems can include congenital deformities, trauma, infections, tumors, degenerative conditions, and metabolic disturbances that fall into the category of musculoskeletal abnormalities. Orthopaedics may also involve the treatment of secondary muscular problems in patients who suffer from various central or peripheral nervous system lesions such as cerebral palsy, paraplegia, or stroke.



Plastic and reconstructive surgery

The specialty of plastic surgery deals with the repair, replacement, and reconstruction of defects of the form and function of the body covering and its underlying musculoskeletal system, with emphasis on the craniofacial structures, the oropharynx, the upper and lower limbs, the breast, and the external genitalia. This surgical specialty also focuses on the aesthetic surgery of structures with undesirable form.




A urologist is a physician who manages benign and malignant medical and surgical disorders of the adrenal gland and of the genitourinary system. Urologists have comprehensive knowledge of, and skills in, endoscopic, percutaneous, and open surgery of congenital and acquired conditions of the reproductive and urinary systems and their contiguous structures.



Vascular surgery

Vascular surgeons care for patients with diseases that affect the arteries and veins throughout the body. Narrowing and hardening of the arteries from cholesterol deposits (atherosclerosis) is the most common problem that vascular surgeons treat. Vascular surgeons must be able to make early accurate diagnoses of patients at risk of arterial problems such as strokes or gangrene, because the damage done by these conditions is often irreversible. They may prevent these diseases by removing or bypassing blockages in important arteries. Vascular surgeons must deal with many other problems in arteries and veins, such as aneurysms and blood clots, and deal with their after effects.