Skip to Content

What is considered major surgery?

Major surgery is a significant medical intervention that involves invasive procedures on the organs of the head, chest, and abdomen. It encompasses a wide range of surgical procedures, including organ transplants, brain tumor removal, open-heart surgery, and more. The term “major surgery” is used to distinguish these complex procedures from minor surgeries or non-invasive treatments. In this article, we will explore what is considered major surgery, the types of major surgeries, preparations involved, the surgical procedure itself, recovery and post-operative care, aftercare and rehabilitation, as well as the emotional and psychological impact on patients.

Types of Major Surgeries

Surgery to the Head

Surgery to the head involves delicate procedures that may include the removal of brain tumors, repair of cranial fractures, or other interventions to address conditions affecting the brain or surrounding structures. These surgeries require precision and expertise to minimize damage and preserve brain function. The impact on the patient can vary depending on the specific procedure, but it often involves a period of recovery, rehabilitation, and close monitoring of neurological function.

Surgery to the Chest

Surgery to the chest is commonly associated with procedures such as open-heart surgery, coronary artery bypass surgery, or lung surgeries. These surgeries are performed to treat various cardiovascular and respiratory conditions. The impact on the patient can be significant, with a longer recovery period and potential complications related to the heart and lungs. However, these surgeries can also provide life-saving interventions and improve the patient’s quality of life.

Surgery to the Abdomen

Surgery to the abdomen includes a wide range of procedures, such as organ transplants, removal of a damaged kidney, removal of tumors or cysts, and surgeries related to the gastrointestinal system. These surgeries are often complex and carry the risk of complications due to the proximity to vital organs. The impact on the patient may involve a lengthy hospital stay, dietary adjustments, and post-operative care to ensure the success of the procedure.

Preparations for Major Surgery

Before undergoing major surgery, thorough preparations are necessary to ensure the patient’s safety and the success of the procedure. These preparations typically involve several steps, including medical evaluations and tests, meetings with the surgical team, and adherence to pre-surgical instructions provided by the healthcare professionals. Medical evaluations and tests, such as blood work, imaging scans, and electrocardiograms, are conducted to assess the patient’s overall health and identify any potential risks or complications that need to be addressed prior to surgery.

In addition to the medical evaluations, patients will have consultations with their surgical team, including the surgeon, anesthesiologist, and nurses. These discussions allow the patient to ask questions, understand the details of the procedure, and discuss any concerns or preferences they may have. Pre-surgical instructions will also be provided, which may include fasting requirements, restrictions on medications or supplements, and guidelines for personal hygiene before the surgery.

The Surgical Procedure

Once the preparations are complete, the patient will undergo the surgical procedure itself. Major surgeries typically involve the following key steps:

Anesthesia and Sedation

Before the surgery begins, the patient will be administered anesthesia to ensure they are unconscious and pain-free during the procedure. The type of anesthesia used will depend on the specific surgery and the patient’s overall health. An anesthesiologist will closely monitor the patient’s vitals throughout the procedure to ensure their safety.

Incision and Access to the Surgical Site

The surgeon will make an incision at the appropriate location to access the surgical site. The size and placement of the incision will vary depending on the type of surgery being performed. In some cases, minimally invasive techniques may be used, which involve smaller incisions and the use of specialized instruments and cameras to perform the procedure.

Removal or Repair of Affected Organs/Tissues

Once the surgeon has access to the surgical site, the affected organs or tissues will be removed, repaired, or replaced as necessary. This may involve the removal of tumors, diseased organs, or damaged tissue. The surgeon will employ their expertise and surgical techniques to complete the procedure effectively.

Closing the Incision

After the necessary interventions are performed, the surgeon will close the incision. This is done meticulously to promote proper healing and reduce the risk of infection. Depending on the type of surgery, stitches, staples, or adhesive strips may be used to close the incision.

Recovery and Post-Operative Care

The recovery phase following major surgery is crucial for the patient’s overall well-being and successful outcomes. Patients are closely monitored in the recovery room immediately after surgery to ensure their stability and manage any immediate post-operative complications. Pain management is also a priority, and medications are administered to control pain levels and enhance the patient’s comfort.

Potential complications can arise following major surgery, including infection, bleeding, or adverse reactions to anesthesia. Healthcare professionals will closely monitor the patient’s condition, administer appropriate medications, and provide necessary interventions to address any complications that may occur.

The duration of the hospital stay for major surgery patients can vary depending on the type of surgery, the patient’s individual recovery progress, and the absence of complications. In some cases, patients may require a stay in the intensive care unit (ICU) for closer observation and specialized care. Once the patient’s condition stabilizes, they will be moved to a regular hospital room, where their progress will continue to be monitored.

Aftercare and Rehabilitation

After discharge from the hospital, patients will continue their recovery and rehabilitation process at home or in a rehabilitation facility. Follow-up appointments and check-ups with the surgical team will be scheduled to assess the patient’s progress, remove stitches or staples, and address any concerns or complications that may arise.

Depending on the type of surgery, patients may require rehabilitation exercises and physical therapy to regain strength, mobility, and functionality. These exercises are essential for a full recovery and may involve working with a physical therapist to develop a personalized rehabilitation plan.

Dietary and lifestyle considerations are often discussed with the patient, as certain surgeries may necessitate dietary modifications or lifestyle adjustments during the recovery period. Proper nutrition and a healthy lifestyle can facilitate healing and overall recovery.

Emotional and Psychological Impact

Major surgery can have a profound impact on a patient’s emotional and psychological well-being. Coping with the stress and emotional challenges associated with surgery can be challenging for many individuals. It is not uncommon for patients to experience anxiety, fear, or depression before or after the surgical procedure.

Having a strong support system in place is essential during this time. Family and friends can provide emotional support and encouragement, helping the patient navigate their recovery journey. Additionally, there are often support groups or counseling services available for patients and their families to process their feelings and address any concerns.

It’s important to acknowledge that major surgery can have long-term psychological effects on individuals. Some may experience post-operative trauma, fear of future surgeries, or changes in body image. Seeking professional help, such as therapy or counseling, can provide valuable support in managing these emotional challenges.


Major surgery is a significant medical intervention that involves invasive procedures on the organs of the head, chest, and abdomen. It encompasses a wide range of surgical procedures, each with its own specific considerations and impacts on the patient. Proper preparations, the surgical procedure itself, recovery and post-operative care, aftercare, and rehabilitation are all vital aspects of the overall surgical journey. It’s essential to recognize the emotional and psychological impact that major surgery can have on individuals and provide the necessary support and resources to ensure their overall well-being.


  1. Major Surgery and Minor Surgery: What Are the Differences
  2. Major and minor surgery: Terms used for hundreds of years …
  3. What Qualifies as Major or Minor Surgery?
  4. Major vs. Minor Surgery
  5. What’s the Difference between Major and Minor Surgery?