Pediatric Surgeon: Your Child Surgery Expert
What is a pediatric surgeon?
A pediatric surgeon specializes in the surgical care of diseases, injuries and deformities in premature and newborn infants, children, and adolescents. Pediatric surgeons diagnose and treat many conditions affecting children, including birth defects, traumatic injuries, cancer, and abdominal problems, such as appendicitis and hernias.
A pediatric surgeon typically:
Evaluates the child’s medical history within the context of his or her growth and development. Pediatric surgeons determine if surgery is necessary and at what age a surgery should be done.
Educates children, parents and guardians about the surgical procedure, how to prepare a child for surgery, and what to expect during recovery based on the child’s age and development
Orders and interprets laboratory and imaging tests and prescribes medications
Provides care before, during and after surgery
Works closely with your child’s primary care doctor and other specialists and members of the healthcare team to provide optimal care
Pediatric surgeons may also be known by the following names: children's surgeon, child surgeon, surgeon for kids, pediatric general surgeon, and peds surgeon.
Who should see a pediatric surgeon?
Your child’s pediatrician or primary care doctor may refer you to a pediatric surgeon after diagnosing your child with a medical condition or illness that requires surgery, such as a hernia or birth defect. Sometimes children see a pediatric surgeon for unexplained symptoms that are difficult to diagnose, such as chronic abdominal pain. A pediatric surgeon can evaluate your child’s condition and determine if surgery is right for your child. .
When should you see a pediatric surgeon?
Consider seeking care from an experienced pediatric surgeon if your child is diagnosed with any of the following symptoms or conditions:
Difficulty swallowing or problems feeding and regurgitation in an infant
Failure to gain weight and grow as expected
You should also seek care from a pediatric surgeon under the following situations:
What conditions and diseases does a pediatric surgeon treat?
A pediatric surgeon treats many conditions and disorders including:
Birth defects including diaphragmatic hernia and problems with the esophagus and intestines
Cancer including Wilms' tumor, neuroblastoma, and germ cell tumors
Endocrine disorders including thyroid disease and adrenal gland disorders
Head and neck problems including cysts and masses
Obesity in older children and adolescents
Organ disorders including kidney, liver, pancreas, and small bowel disease
Trauma including injuries due to falls, sports and playground injuries, burns, motor vehicle accidents, and child abuse
What tests does a pediatric surgeon perform or order?
A pediatric surgeon can order or perform a wide variety of diagnostic tests, including:
Biopsy (taking a tissue sample) to look for infection or disease such as cancer
Endoscopy and colonoscopy to diagnose and treat gastrointestinal (GI) problems
General health and screening tests including stool testing for blood and infection, complete blood count (CBC), blood clotting tests, blood culture, urinalysis, blood glucose (sugar) test, electrolyte tests, liver and kidney function tests, and blood pressure screening
Imaging tests including X-rays, ultrasounds, computed tomography (CT) scans, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
Physical exam and medical history to determine if your child is physically ready, at the right stage of development, and healthy enough for surgery
What procedures and treatments does a pediatric surgeon perform or order?
Pediatric surgeons perform many procedures and treatments to manage a child’s health. A pediatric surgeon will perform minimally invasive techniques, including laparoscopic surgery and robot-assisted surgery, when appropriate and if they are available at the hospital or surgery center where the surgeon practices. Common surgical procedures include:
Bariatric surgery to help obese adolescents lose weight and reduce their risks of serious complications of obesity such as type 2 diabetes
Congenital surgery to correct birth defects
Oncology surgery to remove cancer and noncancerous growths or tumors
Organ transplant including liver, kidney, pancreas, and small bowel transplant
Trauma surgery including the surgical treatment of injuries from falls, sports, car accidents, burns, and child abuse
Pediatric surgeon training and certification
A surgeon may practice pediatric surgery without becoming board certified in the specialty of pediatric surgery. However, education, training, experience and certification are key elements in establishing a doctor’s level of competence. Board certification in pediatric surgery verifies that a doctor has completed residency training in the pediatric surgery and has passed competency examinations.
A board-certified pediatric surgeon has:
Graduated from medical school or a college of osteopathic medicine, earning an MD or DO degree
Completed five years of surgical residency training and earned certification as a general surgeon from the American Board of Surgery
Completed two years of specialized fellowship training in pediatric surgery
Passed subspecialty certification exams that validate the doctor’s specialized knowledge and skills in pediatric surgery
To maintain board certification in pediatric surgery, a doctor must participate in the American Board of Surgery's Maintenance of Certification program.
The American Board of Surgery does not formally recognize any subspecialties of pediatric surgery. However, there are pediatric surgeons who are leaders in their field or in treating a specific type of condition, such as congenital disorders and birth defects.
Other board-certified specialists, such as general surgeons, pediatric urologists, and congenital cardiac surgeons, also treat children who need surgery. Talk to your doctor about the best kind of specialist for your child and ask for a referral to a well-respected doctor. When considering a pediatric surgeon, ask for details about his or her training and experience.