Surgical Procedures

Surgical procedures have been documented since antiquity. The two pages below are from the Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus from Ancient Egypt, dating back to about 1800 BC, and considered the oldest surgical textbook currently known. Some of the techniques described in it are still in use today.

Although surgery has been around for a long time, it was only the advent of anaesthesia and aseptic technique in the latter years of the 19th Century that made it safe enough to be a widespread and routine undertaking. Despite many advances over the past 150 years, surgery remains a prospect full of risk, although steps can be taken to mitigate the risk to a large extent; the residual risk, although in many cases small, is not negligible, and should be weighed against the risk of no treatment, or against the risks of non-operative treatment whenever such options are available.

Our surgeons use sophisticated and validated tools – such as the American College of Surgeons’ National Safety and Quality Improvement Program (NSQuIP) Risk Calculator and the Carolinas Equation for Determining Associated Risks (CEDAR) – to calculate the risk of surgery in individual cases. These tools harness information from hundreds of thousands of operations and their outcomes to help patients and their doctors understand and quantify the risk of surgery, and we encourage you to discuss the results with your doctors and family members.

The risks of surgery can be classified in one of two categories: general risks may be considered common to all surgical procedures, whilst specific risks relate to a particular type of procedure. The general risks of surgery include:

  • Death
  • Cardiac events
  • Cerebrovascular events
  • Thromboembolic events
  • Anaesthetic misadventure
  • Allergy
  • Airway difficulties
  • Nerve injuries
  • Collateral injuries
  • Acute/chronic pain
  • Pneumonia
  • Wound/scar complications
  • Incisional hernia
  • Bleeding
  • Superficial/deep infection.