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Surgery is Addictive!

Alitabatabaeyscrubs72x721Ali Tabatabaey -- I thought it might be a good idea to do some dirty work just before fading into the sunset, so I’ll be finishing off my internship with a couple of months of surgery. I’ve said this before and I’m pretty sure about it, that my true passion is internal medicine, but boy I have to admit “the scalpel is addictive”!

Things did not seem this interesting when we saw it from a distance as an extern. Yet at close range with the scalpel in your hand it’s a whole new world. No wonder so many of my friends name surgical residencies as their top choices. I don’t know what it is. Some say surgery is so appealing because you literally see everything that you are working with and in most instances you don’t have to assume something indirectly. And whenever you’re not sure, you just cut the patient open and take a closer look!

But I say it’s more than that. Maybe it’s the sense of power in being able to explore the body of a living human being. Or maybe it’s the on-spot sense of accomplishment with every operation. Or just maybe it’s the carnivore inside us crying out after years of civilized suppression! Whatever it is, it feels great. Holding the scalpel in your hand gives you the permission to cut open someone else’s body, take a look around, cut out anything you think doesn’t belong there and sew it up when your done.

Once you’ve tasted it you just want more. You crave bigger cuts and more complex operations. The simple appendectomy won’t be enough anymore; Deeper cuts, more blood, bigger sutures … ha ha ha (evil laugh)! Wow! I guess it’s got all the characteristics of a true addiction. Hey, but who am I to talk? I’ve only aided a couple of operations. We’ll see what happens as things unfold through the rest of the course.

September 5, 2007 | Permalink


Plus surgeons also earn a lot.Less study in surgery.And i agree its a sense of accomplishment in every surgery.

Posted by: Burhan | Sep 5, 2007 4:49:30 PM

Congatulations! I'm enticed to comment on your story cause that's exactly what happened with me. I loved surgery so much during my rotations, doing first and second assist and sometimes, allowed to do appendectomy, episiotomy, cystectomy, craniotomy, thyroidectomy, herniorraphy and abdominal deliveries. I also did independently close to 40 non-spontaneous deliveries requiring episiotomy and those vaginal lacerations are really fun to repair, suturing in very tight spaces. My suturing techniques really got honed during my long hours of duties at the ER. I saw myself already as a surgeon in my future practice but ironically, I ended up in Internal Medicine, which has worked out great. Surgery was my first love but I am married to Internal Med. So good luck and have fun.

Posted by: gringo | Sep 5, 2007 7:29:10 PM

Sounds like fun!

Posted by: Afiza | Sep 6, 2007 1:49:13 AM


Posted by: Woman | Sep 11, 2007 1:03:35 PM

dude, i have to agree with Woman there--twice. NOBODY enjoys repairing vaginal lacerations unless they're a guy who's an ob-gyn psycho. u think it's so great, try repairing a penile laceration. that should be fun...!

Posted by: A Guy | Sep 11, 2007 5:05:45 PM

surgery is great, just wait until you are involved in your first organ harvest or other trauma

Posted by: h | Sep 11, 2007 7:12:30 PM

I commend you surgical residents in your endeavors and I understand that surgery may also be an adventure because its a whole new ball park where power guides motive often, but do remember that although you may not mean harm, reading the excerpts above sounds nothing short of disgusting. Lets remember here that the patients are humans and the last thing you'd want if you were out cold and under the mercy of a surgeon's knife is someone with a subtle evil laughter resonating about in their head.

Posted by: Someone | Sep 11, 2007 8:28:29 PM

What's the difference between God and a surgeon?
God knows he isn't a surgeon.

Posted by: Emily RN | Sep 11, 2007 11:08:01 PM

I remember the anatomy days ;(. Miss them a bit. There's something about the complexity of the human body that you can visualise at a macroscopic level in anatomy but still not really see it- then excise it(well from the cadaver at least). At least anatomy isn't completely changed in one day like neuromolecular biology and biochemistry. Even the first edition of Grays was right on the money in a lot of parts and that was in the 18th century. Beats trying to solve the protein misfolding problem. Something about the time long study of anatomy that gives it that -medical feel or appearance. Then again I think the GP's have the hardest job and probably the least addictive........

Posted by: Observer | Sep 12, 2007 8:30:38 AM

Wow...is this typical of most surgeons? Because I recently had a neurosurgeon botch a dbl fusion who made a lovely 5" oblique slash across my neck...had to travel to another surgeon to fix the level he missed & am now facing a 3rd surgery for failed fusion. I was hoping my suspicions of pridefulness & coldness-for-human-suffering being common in surgeons was off the mark. After reading Ali's thoughts & the comments that followed--I fear the worst might be true. And how scary for me, a patient about to allow another surgeon to place his hands & power-tools next to my spinal cord...to come at me with his scalpel. The only thoughts I want him to have are humbled thoughts of saving a young wife & mother from the dangers of the surgery & to make sure this is the last cut!
I feel a bit sickened by what I read here today.

Posted by: apatient | Sep 12, 2007 3:46:38 PM

i am writing here to reasure the last comment by a patient please dont be sickened and afraied from what u have been read its a matter of talking between doctors dont worry in the reality life and in the operation room everybody pray inside him self to get off with sucsessful operation ohh my god specially the Neurosurgeons i did my rotation with them for 2 months and i was enjoying the work and they were so frinly with the patient but in the O.R u can cot imagine the serious faces when they scrub in...so dont worry and dont read what we are chatting here its a feeling of doctors only...good luck

Posted by: Rumaiza | Sep 12, 2007 8:20:55 PM

Wow...can u imangine how a non-doctor like myself must be feeling after reading this!

"Once you’ve tasted it you just want more. You crave bigger cuts and more complex operations. The simple appendectomy won’t be enough anymore; Deeper cuts, more blood, bigger sutures … ha ha ha (evil laugh)! Wow! I guess it’s got all the characteristics of a true addiction....."


and the fact that its "just talk" between you guys Rumaiza does not make it less scary for me, but I have to believe that most of you guys understand the full magnitude of your responsibilities and the depth of the seriousness of what you do.

Posted by: justaman! | Sep 12, 2007 9:45:45 PM

good grief!! are all surgeons power-hungry psychos with egos the size of Australia?? have done several surgical rotations now (was planning on being one), and am realising more and more that the competitive nature of surgery, and the addiction of it, seems to attract a certain type of person....and i'm not sure i want to be that person. has anyone else changed their mind on surg training based on the people they see and work with in surgery, or am i the only one?

and i can understand the point of view of some of the patients who have written in - the majority of surgeons i've worked with recently barely listen to the pt, and leave the room without even saying goodbye or even making eye contact. how come being a surgeon is so incompatible with being a decent human being??

Posted by: Tonia | Sep 12, 2007 10:35:03 PM


Surely my reasons to wanna' do surgery has nothing to do with all this blood, guts, and glory nonsense. In fact, it has more to do with the type of person I am. I consider myself a 'techie doing medicine.' And, if there is any part in the whole study of medicine which requires precise technical skill, certainly it must be Surgery. Apart from that, anyone who picks up a Sabistan's Textbook of Surgery and reads even a few pages can't not, but be inspired to take it up. This is a study which requires tremendous perseverance and an astute dedication; Anything short of which is bound to result in mortality.

My two cents,
God Bless,


Posted by: Shree Mulay | Sep 13, 2007 1:13:20 AM

I have to say, as another patient who recently had surgery, I really appreciate Ali's candor and humor, and I don't agree with the people who are saying surgeons need to be more sensitive about this stuff. Personally, I would rather go to a surgeon who finds the human body fascinating and has fun with what he/she is doing, and who can laugh about the goriness and absurdity of it, than someone who is excessively reverent and grave about the whole experience. If you make it too serious, that's dehumanizing for a lot of people. It's bad enough if you need surgery or if you are sick -- having everyone lose their sense of humor and act like they're already at your funeral is even worse. Just had to say for the benefit of those physicians and surgeons out there who are feeling guilty about having a sense of humor or having fun with their jobs... Not all patients feel that you need to be treating us like holy relics or something. A lot of us patients like your sense of humor and like the fact that you have fun with your jobs. Please don't feel guilty for that. When you're a patient, you spend enough time having people fussing over you and acting all serious. Once in awhile you need a good laugh about the "blood and guts" aspect of all of it.

One caution though -- I remember reading a blog here awhile ago by a med student who was watching a senior doc perform an abortion, and when the abortion was done, with the patient still in stirrups, the senior doc started humming the tune to Queen's song "Another One Bites the Dust." THAT is taking it too far! Humor is great for patients and doctors, as long as you know where to draw the line. Ali, keep up the amusing posts.

Posted by: another patient | Sep 13, 2007 6:29:28 AM

Thank goodness for that last commenter! I think you got it just right! Anyone who has followed Ali's writings knows what a kind and caring person he is, but I also love his devilish humor (which is meant to be shared with others in the profession who can understand his viewpoint). Patients who dump on doctors and portray us all as heartless can be just as unfair and judgmental as the few bad doctors they may have encountered. It's a shame a few "outside visitors" to this blog have derailed this discussion, which was really about choosing a specialty. I loved this post!

Posted by: | Sep 13, 2007 7:46:21 AM

as a current surgery resident, i do remember well what it felt like (and still does sometimes) to feel that rush as I held the scalpel in my hands and started cutting on one of my first few surgeries. The feeling has definitely changed during residency. Not that I don't still enjoy it, but with learning how to manage postop decreased urine output and fevers as well as end-stage liver disease pre-transplant patients who manage to bleed profusely even with massive infusions of blood products and multiple other MEDICAL problems, I find that my training is not something that feeds an addiction to the scalpel. There is something to that old axiom that a surgeon is "an internist who operates". The best surgeons have a strong internal medicine background and the best internists have a strong surgery background--after all, we could probably teach a monkey how to operate, but knowing when and when not to operate is the crux of the matter.

Posted by: surgeryresident | Sep 13, 2007 5:20:50 PM

Thanks for that last from a fellow surgery resident. Surgery is addictive, but contrary to the post from Burnhan there is NOT "less study in surgery." Not if you take your craft and your patients seriously. It is art and science and compassion and internal medicine and surgery and critical care. The ability to make an rapid, informed decision for your patients rests on many nights of Sabiston and Schwartz and yes, still Netter. And yes, it is still a rush to hold the knife- 3 yrs into training and counting. To the patients who read the blogs, you cannot train for medicine and still keep your sanity without a little humor, sometimes dark. The soul needs to vent the suffering witnessed, hopefully in privacy with peers, so that the person who is also a physician can find the center again and again to renew the compassion they truly do feel for their patients.

Posted by: emijs67 | Sep 15, 2007 12:01:21 PM

well, i didnt read all the comments

but damn, u sound like a psychopath lmao

i mean im ok with itn i guess i understand it cuz im a medical student so, but the way u put it =P

anywayz, the best place to work at is in the ER so ud gain experience ffrom all kind i guess..

meh..wutever lol

Posted by: Hanouv | Sep 16, 2007 8:36:16 AM

Surgery is definately addictive, its amazing because things can be fixed well until post op complications occur or the hernia comes back again!! end of story!!!wohoo!!

Posted by: Ems | Sep 17, 2007 4:21:34 AM

//VAGINAL LACERATIONS ARE FUN TO REPAIR??? hhahahahaha oh my god! he is totally crazy!!!! boy, you need theraphy//
but, yes, the surgery is addictive, and I agree that is the sensation to have more power...the things are addictive when have power or when you feel so much good, and I think that surgery give you both things...cut the skin and see the blood...a beautiful dark red blood...jajajaja =P...
personally, the part that more like to me is when I finish and I can to say to his/her family that the patient is right and safe thanks to me!! =D

Posted by: karito | Sep 17, 2007 8:55:38 AM

i'm just an intern as well and my greatest days during my internship has been in my rotation for surgery, i felt no sleep nor tiredness when i was in a surgery, i get this incredible adrenegic overload and it's a wonderful feeling, i asked once to one of my teachers who happens to be a great surgeon why he chose surgery and he told me "because i like my patients to live" so i guess that pretty much says it all.

Posted by: handleyhalifax | Sep 18, 2007 4:15:48 PM

Im only a first year and i walked into the anatomy lab today and saw two cadavers!!! I thought id be squeemish, but it was totally opposite. My attention was drawn at the kit besides the cadavers, and all i wanted to do at that time was to pick up the scalpel and make an incision!!!!

Posted by: | Sep 19, 2007 12:32:32 AM

Well, I'm medical not surgical. but I did a General Surgery rotation and I understand where Ali is coming from, you do get a rush. Regarding APatient's comments, I see where you're coming from too, but you have to remember that what Rumaiza said is true. It's just the way we think and talk with one another. When it comes down to performance, it's no joke and, whether we're medical or surgical, as doctors we take our work very seriously. But to be able to enjoy what we do and be interested is so important. I don't think this kind of place is a good place for patients to be, as they see what we're talking about and it freaks them out. APatient, don't worry about your surgery, you'll be fine. =)

Posted by: Sarah Espinoza | Sep 22, 2007 6:51:04 AM

what an experience! i am rather inspired by your enthusiasm. but follow it up and keep doing it. oh, perhaps u shd submit this article to surgexperiences, the new blog carnival on surgery and more.

Posted by: anon | Sep 24, 2007 6:59:53 AM

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