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Medical specialty

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Jan 1, 2022

A medical specialty is a branch of medical practice that is focused on a defined group of patients, diseases, skills, or philosophy. Examples include children (paediatrics), cancer (oncology), laboratory medicine (pathology), or primary care (family medicine). After completing medical school, physicians or surgeons usually further their medical education in a specific specialty of medicine by completing a multiple-year residency to become a specialist.[1]

Branch of medicine concerning a specific group of diseases or population
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. . . Medical specialty . . .

To a certain extent, medical practitioners have long been specialized. According to Galen, specialization was common among Roman physicians.[citation needed] The particular system of modern medical specialties evolved gradually during the 19th century. Informal social recognition of medical specialization evolved before the formal legal system. The particular subdivision of the practice of medicine into various specialties varies from country to country, and is somewhat arbitrary.[2]

Medical specialties can be classified along several axes. These are:

  • Surgical or internal medicine
  • Age range of patients
  • Diagnostic or therapeutic
  • Organ-based or technique-based

Throughout history, the most important has been the division into surgical and internal medicine specialties. The surgical specialties are those in which an important part of diagnosis and treatment is achieved through major surgical techniques. The internal medicine specialties are the specialties in which the main diagnosis and treatment is never major surgery. In some countries, anesthesiology is classified as a surgical discipline, since it is vital in the surgical process, though anesthesiologists never perform major surgery themselves.

Many specialties are organ-based. Many symptoms and diseases come from a particular organ. Others are based mainly around a set of techniques, such as radiology, which was originally based around X-rays.

The age range of patients seen by any given specialist can be quite variable. Paediatricians handle most complaints and diseases in children that do not require surgery, and there are several subspecialties (formally or informally) in paediatrics that mimic the organ-based specialties in adults. Paediatric surgery may or may not be a separate specialty that handles some kinds of surgical complaints in children.

A further subdivision is the diagnostic versus therapeutic specialties. While the diagnostic process is of great importance in all specialties, some specialists perform mainly or only diagnostic examinations, such as pathology, clinical neurophysiology, and radiology. This line is becoming somewhat blurred with interventional radiology, an evolving field that uses image expertise to perform minimally invasive procedures.

Specialty May be subspecialty of Age range
of patients
Diagnostic (D) or
therapeutic (T)
specialty
Surgical (S) or
internal medicine (I)
specialty
Organ-based (O)
or technique-based (T)
Allergy and immunology Internal medicine
Pediatrics
All Both I O
Adolescent medicine Pediatrics
Family medicine
Pediatric Both I T
Anesthesiology None All T Both Both
Aerospace medicine Family Medicine All Both Neither Both
Bariatrics Several All Both Both Both
Cardiology Internal medicine Adults T I O
Cardiothoracic surgery General surgery Adults T S O
Child and adolescent psychiatry Psychiatry Pediatric T I T
Clinical neurophysiology Neurology All D I Both
Colorectal surgery General Surgery All Both S O
Dermatology None All T I O
Developmental pediatrics Pediatrics Pediatric T I Neither
Emergency medicine Family Medicine All Both Both Both
Endocrinology Internal medicine Adults T I O
Family Medicine None All Both Both Multidisciplinary
Forensic pathology Pathology All D Neither T
Forensic psychiatry Psychiatry All D I T
Gastroenterology Internal medicine Adults T I O
General surgery None Adults T S T
General surgical oncology General surgery Adults T S T
Geriatrics Family medicine
Internal medicine
Geriatric T I Multidisciplinary
Geriatric psychiatry Geriatrics
Psychiatry
Geriatric T I Neither
Gynecologic oncology Obstetrics and gynecology All T S O
Hematology Internal medicine
pathology
Adults D I Neither
Hematologic pathology Hematology
Pathology
All D Neither T
Infectious disease Internal medicine
Pediatrics
All Both I Neither
Internal medicine None Adults T I Neither
Interventional radiology Radiology All Both Multidisciplinary
Intensive care medicine Anesthesiology
Emergency medicine
Internal medicine
All T Both Both
Maternal-fetal medicine Obstetrics and gynecology Adults T S Both
Medical biochemistry Internal medicine All D I Neither
Medical genetics None All D I Neither
Medical oncology Internal medicine Adults D I Neither
Neonatology Pediatrics Neonatal T I Neither
Nephrology Internal medicine All T I O
Neurology Internal medicine All T I O
Neuropathology Pathology All D Neither T
Neurosurgery None All T S O
Nuclear medicine None All Both I T
Obstetrics and gynecology Family medicine All T S O
Occupational medicine Family medicine
Internal medicine
Adults T I Multidisciplinary
Ophthalmology None All T S O
Orthopedic surgery None All T S O
Oral and maxillofacial surgery None All T S O
Otorhinolaryngology None All T S O
Palliative care Family Medicine
Internal medicine
Pediatrics
All Both Neither Neither
Pathology None All D Neither T
Pediatrics None Pediatric T I Neither
Pediatric allergy and immunology Pediatrics Pediatric T I O
Pediatric cardiology Pediatrics Pediatric T I O
Pediatric emergency medicine Pediatrics Pediatric Both Both Both
Pediatric endocrinology Pediatrics Pediatric T I O
Pediatric gastroenterology Pediatrics Pediatric T I O
Pediatric hematology and oncology Pediatrics Pediatric T I O
Pediatric infectious disease Pediatrics Pediatric T I O
Pediatric nephrology Pediatrics Pediatric T I O
Pediatric respiratory medicine Pediatrics Pediatric T I O
Pediatric rheumatology Pediatrics Pediatric T I O
Pediatric surgery General surgery Pediatric T S O
Physical medicine and rehabilitation None All T I Multidisciplinary
Plastic, reconstructive and aesthetic surgery General surgery All T S O
Psychiatry Family medicine All Both I T
Public health Family medicine All Neither Neither T
Radiation oncology None All T Neither T
Radiology None All Both I T
Reproductive endocrinology and infertility Obstetrics and gynecology Adults T S T
Respiratory medicine Internal medicine Adults T I O
Rheumatology Internal medicine Adults T I Neither
Sports medicine Family medicine All Both Neither Multidisciplinary
Thoracic surgery General surgery Adults T S T
Toxicology Emergency Medicine All Both Neither O
Neuroradiology Radiology All Both I Both
Urology None All T S O
Vascular surgery General surgery All T S O

. . . Medical specialty . . .

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. . . Medical specialty . . .