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Microsurgery is a general term for surgery requiring an operating microscope. The most obvious developments have been procedures developed to allow anastomosis of successively smaller blood vessels and nerves (typically 1 mm in diameter) which have allowed transfer of tissue from one part of the body to another and re-attachment of severed parts. Microsurgical techniques are utilized by several specialties today, such as: general surgery, ophthalmology, orthopedic surgery, gynecological surgery, otolaryngology, neurosurgery, oral and maxillofacial surgery, plastic surgery, podiatric surgery and pediatric surgery.

Today neurosurgeons are very proud to use microscopes in their procedures. But it was not always so: many prestigious centers did not accept that idea and it had to be developed in relative isolation. In the late 1950s William House began to explore new techniques for temporal bone surgery. He developed the middle fossa approach and perfected the translabyrinthine approach and began to use these techniques to remove acoustic nerve tumors. The advances in the techniques and technology that popularized microsurgery began in the early 1960s to involve other medical areas.

The first micro vascular surgery, using a microscope to aid in the repair of blood vessels. A number of surgical specialties use microsurgical techniques. Otolaryngologists (ear, nose, throat and head and neck surgeons) perform microsurgery on structures of the inner ear and the vocal cords. Otolaryngologists and maxillofacial surgeons use microsurgical techniques when reconstructing defects from resection of head and neck cancers. Cataract surgery, corneal transplants, and treatment of conditions like glaucoma are performed by ophthalmologists. Urologists and gynecologists frequently now reverse vasectomies and tubal ligations to restore fertility.