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Areas within medicine
Medical care is divided into Primary Care, Secondary Care and Tertiary Care
Primary Care: Primary Care is the front line of healthcare and includes, Pharmacy, General Practice, Accident and Emergency and Out of Hours Services
Secondary Care: Secondary care includes specialties to which a GP would refer. So, Neurologists, for example, would be involved in secondary care.
Tertiary Care: Tertiary care involves more specialised medicine and surgery. A spinal injury centre or rehabilitation unit would fall under tertiary care services.
There are many different areas within medicine but these can be split between: Medical, allied (or paramedical) and Surgical specialities.
The following is a non-exhaustive list of specialities within medicine together with a brief description of what they involve.
Emergency Medicine: As the name suggests, Emergency Medicine is the study and treatment of acute conditions. Emergency medicine is therefore practised within the A&E department of a hospital. However, Emergency medicine also covers the Ambulance service. It does not cover intensive care. The doctors working within an intensive care unit are known as “Intensivists”.
Haematology: Is concerned with the study of the blood, the organs that produce blood and diseases affecting the blood.
Oncology: This is the study and treatment of cancer. Oncologists will diagnose and treat many forms of cancer and will often work within specialist tertiary care centers (an example being The Christie Hospital).
Urology: Perhaps technically a surgical speciality, Urology involves the study of the male and female urinary system and the male reproductive system, and the treatment of its associated diseases.
Neurology: Neurology is the study and treatment of diseases of the nervous system. Neurologists treat a range of conditions and are heavily involved with brain injured patients. Neurologists can be based in a secondary or tertiary care setting. Neurologists will be involved in the rehabilitation of a brain injured patient, often within a Rehabilitation Centre.
Radiology: Radiologists consider medical imaging in order to identify diseases / injuries. Radiology has become more specialised over the years with the creation of Neuroradiologists and Radiologists that will only deal with a particular area of the body. Radiologists do not perform the imaging themselves (that is, they do not take x-rays etc) as this is done by a non-medically qualified technician. Radiologists must have extensive knowledge of the human anatomy.
Obstetrics and Gynaecology: Gynaecology is the treatment of Gynecological (women’s) conditions and Obstetrics is the management of pregnancy including labour.
Cardiology: This is the study and treatment of heart conditions. Cardiologists are therefore involved in the detection, treatment and management of disease of the heart. A Cardio-Thoracic Surgeon performs surgery on the heart.
Ophthalmology: This is the treatment of eye conditions.
Gastroenterology: Gastroenterology is concerned with diseases of the digestive system: the stomach, Oesophagus etc.
Paediatrics: The branch of medicine dealing with the care of young peopleup to the age of 18. Other areas of medicine will also have clinicians who specialise in Paediatrics. There will, therefore, be Paediatric Neurologists and Paediatric Radiologists etc.
Neonatology: Technically a subspecialty of Paediatrics, Neonatology involves the care of the newborn infant, in particular the ill newborn. Neonatologists would usually work within the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and are often Neonatal Intensivists. That is, they care for severely ill newborns and are often tasked with the difficult decision as to when to withdraw life-sustaining treatment.
Anaesthesiology: This is the study of the effects of anaesthetics on the body. Anaesthetists are involved in every operation requiring general anaesthetic and also in the management of pain. Pain Management clinics will be conducted by Anaesthetists.
Endocrinology: Endocrinology is a branch of medicine dealing with disorders of the Endocrine system. Endocrinologists therefore deal with diseases affecting hormone production. A disorder affecting a gland would be dealt with by an Endocrinologist, for example damage to the pituitary gland.
Psychiatry: Psychiatry is the study, and treatment, of diseases of the mind.
Dermatology: Concerns the treatment of conditions affecting the skin. Combines medicine and surgery.
General Practice: General Practice is a primary care speciality. It is the study of ‘family medicine’. General Practitioners are employed by the local Primary Care Trust rather than an NHS Trust. GP practices are run on similar lines to a Law firm, with Partners and salaried staff.
Rheumatology: Is concerned with treatment of diseases affecting the rheumatic system. That is, joints soft tissues etc. A Rheumatologist would be involved in the treatment of arthritis and Chronic Pain Syndrome.
Podiatry: Is concerned with the study, diagnosis and treatment of disorders affecting the foot and ankle.
Physiotherapy: Physiotherapy is concerned with providing services to individuals in order to develop, maintain and restore maximum movement and functional ability, often following an accident.
Occupational Therapy (OT): Occupational Therapists assess and assist patients to return to participation in normal life and activities.
Orthotics: Is concerned with the design and fitting of devices that correct musculoskeletal deformities and abnormalities of the body.
Orthopaedics: Orthopaedics is the study, diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal conditions. Treatment may be surgical or non-surgical.
Cardio-thoracic: Cardio-thoracic surgery involves surgical treatment of conditions affecting the heart and lungs.
General Surgery: The term General Surgery is a misnomer; it is actually concerned with the treatment of conditions affecting the organs of the torso. For example, General Surgeons will deal with conditions of the gall bladder, bile duct, intestines and stomach etc.
Colorectal: This speciality evolved from General Surgery. Colorectal Surgeons treat conditions affecting the lower digestive tract: the colon, anus and rectum.
Plastic Surgery: Plastic Surgery is a surgical speciality concerned with the restoration of form and function within the body. There are two distinct areas: modification and reconstruction.
ENT: ENT stands for Ears, Nose and Throat. ENT surgeons identify and treat abnormalities within these three areas. This includes the treatment of head and neck cancers.
Neurosurgery: Deals with the treatment of conditions affecting the Central Nervous System, which includes the brain and spine. It also involves the treatment of diseases affecting the Peripheral Nervous System, which includes nerves throughout the body.