Operative Surgery – more commonly called simply “surgery” – is the branch of medicine in which doctors physically cut into the human body in order to diagnose or treat an illness or injury. Some people confuse the word “surgery” with any type of invasive hospital procedure. For instance, they may say, “I’m going in for surgery” when they have been scheduled for an Upper GI (a procedure in which a long tube – an endoscope – is inserted through your mouth and down into your stomach in order to look for ulcers or other problems), but technically this is not operative surgery. While this is uncomfortable, like operative surgery, it is more accurately described as a “procedure.”
On the other hand, operative surgery is not strictly limited to the practice of “cutting things out” nor is operative surgery limited to operations that take place in an operating room. And, in fact, some types of operative surgery are not even performed by surgeons. For instance a tracheotomy – when a doctor cuts a hole into trachea (the neck) in order to place an artificial breathing tube – is an operative surgery often performed in the ICU, sometimes by a critical care specialist (not a surgeon), and results in something actually being put into the body, rather than taken out.
Operative surgery is not necessarily performed only for the purpose of curing diseases, either. Sometimes, it is performed in order to establish a diagnosis. An operation known as an “exploratory laparotomy” certainly qualifies as a major operative surgery – the surgeon makes a large cut or “incision” down the length of the abdomen (or “belly”) in order to look at all of the organs inside the belly. This is sometimes performed on patients who have had longstanding abdominal (or “stomach”) problems and is doing poorly due to a disease that doctors are otherwise unable to diagnose. It is also quite common for patients who have internal bleeding after a severe auto accident to be taken to the operating room for an exploratory laparotomy.
Operative surgery does not necessarily mean something bloody, either. Cataract surgery is an example of an operative surgery in which there is ordinarily no bleeding whatsoever. This is because the front part of the eye, which must remain clear in order to permit the passage of light through to the retina at the back of the eye, does not have blood any blood vessels. This is just one surprising fact related to the many facets of operative surgery.