Frequently Asked Questions


What is a colon and rectal surgeon?


A colon and rectal surgeon is a general surgeon who has completed an additional one year of training in colon and rectal surgery. The fellowship is followed by a certification examination. The American Board of Colon and Rectal Surgery then certifies the surgeon to perform complex colon and rectal operations.


Why should I have my surgery performed by a board-certified colon and rectal surgeon?


By virtue of their specialization, colon and rectal surgeons achieve lower complication rates and lower mortality rates than general surgeons. In the past few years, more than 40 articles were published in the medical literature measuring the quality of surgical care based on survival, complication rate, use of colostomy, length of hospitalization, functional outcome, and cost. In virtually every article and by every measure, surgeons with more specific training and greater operative volumes perform better.


What is the importance of board certification?


In addition to completing five years of general surgery training, colon and rectal surgeons have also completed an additional year of specialized training approved by the American Board of Colon and Rectal Surgery. The training is followed by a certifying examination, leading to certification in the field of colon and rectal surgery. The certificate is evidence that the physician's qualifications for specialty practice are recognized by his or her peers. Only surgeons certified by the American Board of Colon and Rectal Surgery are qualified to call themselves colon and rectal surgeons and treat complex colon and rectal problems.


What is the surgeon's clinical experience and the results of surgery? How many times have you performed this surgery?


The average U.S. general surgeon does only eight colon resections and only three hemorrhoidectomies per year. Colorectal surgeons, on the other hand, perform a large number of these cases on a regular basis. Studies have shown that surgeons with a large experience have superior results. You have the right to ask about the surgeon's volume and clinical results.


What complications might occur if I decide to have surgery?


Complications can occasionally occur after any surgery. Fortunately, these are far and few. Different operations have different complications. Colon and rectal surgeons, by virtue of their specialization, have lower complication rates. Please ask your surgeon about complications related to your specific surgery and what his/her rates of complications are.


Are there alternatives to surgery? Can medical treatment be done?


Some conditions can be treated by medicines or alterations in lifestyle. Please ask your doctor during your visit if your particular condition can be treated nonsurgically.


How is a colon and rectal surgeon different from a gastroenterologist?


A colon and rectal surgeon is a board-certified general surgeon who then goes on to do specialty training in colon and rectal surgery. He or she must then become board certified in colon and rectal surgery. A gastroenterologist is an internist who then goes on to do specialty training in gastroenterology. One is a subspecialty of surgery and the other a subspecialty of internal medicine. We both do colonoscopies, but only colon and rectal surgeons do surgeries.


How is a colon and rectal surgeon different from a general surgeon?


In addition to being board certified in general surgery, a colon and rectal surgeon is board certified in colon and rectal surgery. A colon and rectal surgeon specializes in treating colon and rectal cancer, diverticulitis, colitis, rectal prolapse, hemorrhoids, anal fissures, fistulas, and fecal incontinence.