Paediatric surgery

Paediatric surgeons work with young patients – from premature and unborn babies to children and young adults up to the age of 19.

This page provides useful information on the nature of the work, the common procedures/interventions, sub-specialties and other roles that may interest you.

Nature of the work

Paediatric surgeons might be performing surgery for a tiny baby born at 25 weeks’ gestation or for a six-foot teenager!

The types of surgery are wide-ranging and include:

Specialist paediatric surgery includes:

Only 11% of operations on children are carried out by paediatric surgeons. The remainder are performed by other specialist surgeons, some of whom specialise in paediatric cases. These include general, orthopaedic, plastic, oral and ophthalmic surgery as well as ENT and urology. Specialist adult surgeons may work in partnership with paediatric surgeons to treat uncommon childhood disorders such as thyroid and certain gastrointestinal conditions.

Surgery is only part of the work. You’ll also attend outpatient clinics and ward rounds where you’ll meet your patients and their parents or carers. Reassurance and advice for concerned parents is an important part of your job.

Most specialised children’s surgery is performed in dedicated children’s hospitals or in paediatric surgical units within larger hospitals. Approximately 338 surgeons work in 29 centres of this kind in the UK. The consultant paediatric surgeon leads a team of health professionals who diagnose, treat and support children with a wide range of conditions, including those diagnosed antenatally.

Common procedures/interventions

Non-specialist elective paediatric surgery may include the management of common problems including hernias, circumcision or undescended testis

Emergency procedures include appendectomy, correction of torsion of the testis and correction for the narrowing of the opening between the stomach and the intestine.

Paediatric surgeons often perform complex surgery on children with disabilities to improve their standard of living.


There is an increasing trend for consultants to develop further specific expertise in areas of special interest which include:

Some consultants have an interest in paediatric orthopaedics, paediatric neurosurgery and paediatric cardiothoracic, but they come from orthopaedic, neurosurgery and cardiothoracic surgical training routes, rather than paediatric surgery.

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