What Are the Different Types of Major Surgery?

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  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 11 September 2019
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Major surgery is typically defined as any medical procedure that requires the use of anesthesia or breathing assistance. There are several different types of major surgery available, depending on the individual procedure and the overall health of the patient. Some of the most common types of major surgery include open surgery, laparoscopic surgery, and microsurgery. Other major surgical procedures may include organ transplant surgery, keyhole surgery, or some types of emergency surgery.

Open surgery is the oldest of all the routine surgical procedures, although it often reserved for situations in which less-invasive types of major surgery are not appropriate or safe. Large incisions are typically needed for open surgery, and major muscles or tendons may have to be cut in order to perform the procedure. This type of surgery carries a higher risk for complications, such as infection or blood clots, than some of the other types of surgery. Some operations, such as organ transplant surgeries, must be performed as an open surgical procedure.

Laparoscopic surgery has become the technique used most often for major surgery involving the abdominal cavity. This procedure involves the use of two or three very small incisions, and tiny instruments are used to perform the surgery. Due to the nature of laparoscopic surgery, complications are much less common than in cases where open surgery is necessary.


Microsurgery involves the use of a very small microscope and other small instruments and is typically used for procedures involving the smaller structures of the body, such as nerves or blood vessels. Many types of emergency surgery, such as gallbladder or appendix removal, are types of major surgery that can be performed in different ways, depending on the severity of the condition.

Keyhole surgery is among the newest types of major surgery and is becoming more popular for procedures such as the removal of gallstones or certain types of prostate surgery. This procedure involves the use of very small incisions and the insertion of a small tube into one of the incisions. A small light is located on the end of the tube, allowing the surgeon to see the area where the surgery is taking place. Other very small instruments are inserted into the other incisions in order to assist the surgeon in carrying out the procedure. Keyhole surgery is similar to laparoscopic surgery in many respects, although it often involves smaller incisions and a quicker recovery time than laparoscopic surgery.


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