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What is pediatric surgery?

This pediatric specialty is focused specifically on surgeries of infants, children, and teenagers. Experienced board-certified pediatric surgeons perform common childhood operations, such as appendectomies and hernia repairs, and more advanced procedures, such as reconstructive bowel and cancer surgeries.

Pediatric surgeons operate on all children, from newborns to adolescents. Their expertise is essential, because a child is not a small adult. As a child grows, his or her anatomy changes, and a pediatric surgeon’s skills are needed to perform operations on delicate tissues and structures in his or her body. Pediatric surgeons also interact with children in a relaxed, cooperative, and safe manner. The training required to become a pediatric surgeon generally requires eight to nine years following medical school.

Mclane Children's at Scott & White’s pediatric surgeons collaborate with other medical specialties (and in some cases, surgical specialties) as well as support services to provide high-quality, safe, and emotionally supportive care for each child.

What does a pediatric surgeon treat?   

Pediatric surgeons treat many congenital conditions (those present at birth) that require operations to remove or repair tissue or structures in the body:

  • Birth defects are now often detected during the fetal (prenatal) stage of development with the use of advanced ultrasound technology. Pediatric surgeons, in cooperation with maternal-fetal obstetricians and neonatal intensivists, can consult with the mother and family to educate and to plan corrective surgery when the baby is born.
  • Birthmarks include port wine stains (clusters of red, swollen blood vessels that appear on the body).
  • Cleft lip and palate are deformities of the upper lip and mouth that are cosmetic but can have serious consequences if not treated (also see pediatric plastic surgery).
  • Undescended testicles refer to the absence of one or both testes in males.

The surgeons at McLane Children's can also initiate pediatric and neonatal extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). ECMO is a temporary heart-lung bypass that allows critically ill newborns and children with heart and lung problems time to heal. This is a lifesaving therapy reserved for the sickest of patients, when there are no other options.

What is a minimally invasive operation?

Pediatric surgeons also perform minimally invasive operations for some conditions:

  • Appendectomy—This procedure involves the removal of the appendix.
  • Cholecystectomy—This operation removes the gallbladder.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)—This condition requires repair of a weakened muscle that causes burning in the chest due to backflow of digestive juices in the esophagus.
  • Thoracic procedures—These can include pulmonary resections and removal of infected intrathoracic debris.

Pediatric surgeons and their surgical colleagues treat these conditions as well:

  • Broken bones
  • Cancer
  • Traumatic injuries
  • Hearing impairment
  • Vascular malformations
  • Retina and eye diseases
  • Complex kidney problems
  • Lung diseases
  • Snake bites
  • Cosmetic issues
  • Urological malformations
  • Gynecological issues

Sometimes, pediatric surgeons will work with other pediatric surgical specialists such as a pediatric plastic surgeon, if a child has a complex wound, or a pediatric urologist, if a child has complex genitourinary problems.

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