What is a Paediatric Surgeon?

Baby being examinedChildren are not small adults, they often cannot say what is wrong or where it hurts. A paediatric surgeon is a doctor who has special training in examining, diagnosing and treating children with surgical conditions. A paediatric surgeon treats conditions in children from newborn up to early adolescence (age of 13) and the conditions are often different to those treated by adult general surgeons, which is why special training is needed.

They have chosen to make paediatric care the core of their medical training, therefore their rooms are decorated with children in mind to help them feel relaxed, as well as having special equipment in theatre for surgical procedures. I also try to ensure that my bedside manner suits our little patients, as well as working with staff specially trained to look after and care for children.


What is the focus of Peadiatric Surgery

Paediatric surgeons utilise their expertise and training in providing surgical care for children affected by conditions requiring surgery. This includes operations performed laparoscopically (key-hole surgery). Unlike an adult surgeon who usually specialises in a particular part of the body, a paediatric surgeon is trained to do surgeries from the head to the toe of a patient, and has rather specialised in the global care of children.

They therefore have particular expertise and responsibility in the following areas:

  • Neonatal: We have specialised knowledge, and training in the surgical repair of birth defects, some of which may be life-threatening to your newborn baby.
  • Perinatal: Paediatric surgeons, together with obstetricians and fetal specialists, use ultrasound and other technologies to detect abnormalities during the fetal stage of a child’s development. They can then plan corrective surgery and educate and get to know the parents before their baby is born. Fetal surgery, although an exciting new forefront in paediatric surgery, is not yet available throughout South Africa as super specialist training is required. Most of the treatments are also still experimental.
  • Trauma: Trauma is the leading cause of surgical deaths in children in South Africa, especially in children over the age of 5, (https://www.unicef.org/southafrica/SAF_publications_mrc.pdf ) therefore paeds surgeons are routinely faced with critical care situations involving traumatic injuries sustained by children that may or may not need surgical intervention. Many paeds surgeons are involved in accident prevention programmes to curb traumatic injuries sustained by children.
  • Paediatric Oncology: Paediatric surgeons are involved in the diagnosis and surgical care of children with malignant tumours, as well as benign growths that affect children. They work hand-in-hand with the oncology team to assist with the care of children with cancer.