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Summer issue of Stanford Medicine magazine opens up the world of surgery

The evolution of surgical techniques, the physiology of unconsciousness, O.R. culture and CNN correspondent Sanjay Gupta are featured in Stanford Medicine magazine’s special report on surgery.

- By Rosanne Spector

The summer issue of Stanford Medicine magazine explores the world of surgery.
Max Aguilera-Hellweg

Though roughly 50 million inpatient surgeries take place in the United States each year, the world of surgery is a mystery to most of us.

The summer issue of Stanford Medicine magazine aims to reduce that mystery with a special report “Inside job: Surgeons at work.”

It used to be “big hole, big surgeon” — but no more, according to Stanford’s chair of surgery, Tom Krummel, MD, in the report’s lead article, an overview of the changes in surgery today.

During Krummel’s career of more than 30 years, he’s seen a massive shift from open surgeries to minimally invasive procedures — major surgeries conducted with tools that work through small openings.

“We do the same big operation. We just don’t make a big hole,” he said.

Also covered in the special report on surgery:

  • A conversation with CNN’s chief medical correspondent, neurosurgeon Sanjay Gupta, MD, who talks about why he’s “doubling down” on his support for medical marijuana.
  • The culture of the operating room.
  • Efforts to improve anesthesia by understanding the physiology of unconsciousness.
  • A surgeon’s crisis when her hands become paralyzed.
  • How a young girl’s leg was lengthened using an external fixator — a device described both as draconian and as the perfect blend of engineering and art. (The digital edition includes an animation showing how the device works.)
  • The burgeoning problem of wounds that don’t heal.
  • Discoveries about the cartilage that could make mechanical joint replacements obsolete.

Produced with support from Stanford’s Department of Surgery and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, the issue also includes a report on Alzheimer’s disease research, and an excerpt from a new book by Associated Press medical reporter Mike Stobbe about the fall from power of the U.S. Surgeon General.

The digital edition offers audio interviews with Gupta, Stobbe, Stanford surgeon and humanitarian-aid volunteer Sherry Wren, MD, and photographer Max Aguilera-Hellweg, MD.

The magazine is available online at Print copies are being sent to subscribers. Others can request a copy at (650) 723-6911 or by sending an email to

Stanford Medicine integrates research, medical education and health care at its three institutions - Stanford School of Medicine, Stanford Health Care, and Stanford Children's Health. For more information, please visit the Office of Communications website at

2022 ISSUE 1

Understanding the world within us

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