8 Best Surgery Anki Decks (2021)

Surgery is one of the major subjects you’ll study in the clinical years of med school. But it’s also a hugely popular residency specialty too.

Studying it from pre-made Anki decks can be a good move to help level up your knowledge.

The digital flashcards in each of the following decks help you memorize the high-yield material needed for success in both the subject and the field.

The Best Surgery Anki Decks

These are the decks we’ll be looking at:

  • Dorian’s Surgery Anki Decks
    • Emma Holliday Step 2 CK Shelf Lectures (best for symptom recognition) 
    • Online Med Ed Surgery Anki Deck (best for auditory learners)
    • Dr Pestana’s Surgery Notes (best for rapid review)
  • Virgilio’s Surgery 2nd Edition Anki Deck (most comprehensive)
  • Surgery Recall Anki (best Q&A format)
  • Brosencephalon Surgical Deck (best alternative)
  • Med School Guru’s Surgery Clerkship Deck (best subject review)
  • Yousmle.com Step 2 Anki Deck Surgery Clerkship (best paid option)

Each of these decks is formatted and structured differently, suiting those with varied learning styles. They also differ in size, meaning some will be faster to run through than others.

We recommend taking a look at each and checking out the card examples first before downloading.

We’ve also included some helpful surgery learning resources at the end of this article too!

Dorian’s Surgery Anki Decks 

Redditor Dorian has made 3 subdecks for surgery based on different resources. The majority of it is made up of cards from Zanki/Anking but with a lot of useful extras.

We’ll take a quick look at each.

Emma Holliday Step 2 CK Shelf Lectures: Surgery

Deck TypeEmma Holliday Step 2 CK Shelf Lectures
Card Format Basic 
Year of Upload 2018 
Required Plugins N/A 
Download size 38.6 MB 
Download link Dorian’s Emma Holliday Surgery Subdeck

The first subdeck is based on Emma Holliday Step 2 CK Shelf Lectures. You can see our entire guide on Emma Holliday lectures here.

The flashcards focus on recognizing the symptoms that lead to a diagnosis (as opposed to rote memorization). 

The deck has 310 cards making it very manageable. Despite having fewer cards, multiple high-yield concepts are covered. 

You’ll see the surgery Anki cards are based on her PowerPoint presentations (included in our guide)…

Knowing when to stop different medications is a crucial skill for physicians.

Parameters like BUN and creatinine must be cross-checked (as the card shows) to avoid post-operative bleeding. 

Being a medical student myself, electrolyte disturbance is a concept that we should familiarise ourselves with early.

If not managed promptly, a patient’s life can be in danger. The card highlights the features of hypercalcemia as well as other major electrolytes (Na, K, Mg, and PO4).

A patient comes in with irregular breathing and appears anxious. Amongst other tests, an ABG is ordered. They come back as having respiratory alkalosis. What would you do next?

Getting a good grasp of the flowchart (on the flashcard pictured above) would help diagnose pH disturbances as well as understand potential causes!

Download Dorian’s Emma Holliday Surgery Anki deck here

OnlineMedEd Surgery Anki Deck

Deck TypeOnline Med Ed Surgery 
Card Format Basic 
Year of Upload 2018 
Required Plugins N/A 
Download size 38.6 MB 
Download link Dorian’s OME Surgery Subdeck

The second subdeck from Dorian is based on OnlineMedEd’s surgery playlist.

This is a comprehensive resource with high-quality videos that are easy to follow. I would strongly recommend using the videos in conjunction with the UWorld Surgery chapter to have a full overview. 

It consists of 439 cards and the deck is further split into General Medicine (254 cards), Subspecialty (71 cards), and Trauma (114 cards) as shown below. 

Here’s how it’s categorized…

There are a lot of pathologies covered across Surgery. This deck aims to highlight important obscure diseases. The card shows primary symptoms and includes extra detail (e.g. Hamman’s crunch). 

Lumps can present anywhere on the human body and raise alarm for patients. How would you distinguish if it is a cyst or potentially cancerous? Such diagnostic dilemmas are something physicians train themselves to handle.

This card emphasizes how your plan of management for a patient can change depending on their initial symptoms/imaging.

This subdeck is formatted simply; with back-to-front (basic) cards and several cloze format.

The inclusion of extra info; high yield tables, etc, helps you show off your skills on surgery rotations when questioned.  

One of the most common acute surgical complaints is abdominal pain (differential diagnosis is the backbone here).

Having shadowed surgeons on call, they have to quickly distinguish between different types of abdominal pain presentation.

Using these cards to understand the difference between perforation, obstruction, inflammation, and ischemia definitely helps!

Download Dorian’s OME Surgery Anki deck here

Dr. Pestana’s Surgery Notes Anki Deck

Deck TypeDr. Pestana’s Surgery Notes 
Card Format Basic 
Year of Upload 2018 
Required Plugins N/A 
Download size 9.1 MB 
Download link Dorian’s Dr. Pestana’s Surgery Notes

Dorian’s third subdeck is based on the gold standard textbook; Dr. Pestana’s Surgery Notes

The deck consists only of 87 cards. It is beneficial for a fast review of some high yield surgical topics like skull fractures and the diagnostic workup of common pathologies. 

This card reinforces the full presentation of a skull fracture….

Racoon eyes, battle signs, and clear rhinorrhea are crucial signs to check for in patients. Knowing the concepts on cards like these are key to success in surgery.

Examiners often lookout for students to use terminology related to certain pathologies.

Cards like these (showing basal cell carcinoma) include the keywords you’ll need to use when describing these surgery-related diseases.

Within the 87 cards, the management of surgical problems is also covered…

It’s a good idea to master the whole rotation using each of these decks, working through Dorian’s master deck in its entirety.

Download Dorian’s Dr. Pestana’s Surgery Notes Anki deck here

De Virgilio’s Surgery 2nd Edition Anki Deck

Deck TypeSurgery Clerkship/Shelf & General Medical School Curriculum
Card Format Basic/Cloze
Year of Upload 2020 
Required Plugins N/A 
Download size 
Download link de Virgilio’s Surgery Anki Deck

Redditor durian222 created this deck based on the 2020 version of the “Surgery: A Case-Based Clinical Review” by Christian de Virgilio. 

This deck is comprehensive and has many short “cloze” cards making it useful for fast recall.  

A major advantage of this deck is that at the top of every card, the chapter textbook is listed.

If you struggle with a card, you can easily refer to the corresponding section in the book and clarify any issues. 

The creator recommends reading the outlines at the end of the chapter, doing the Anki cards, and then reading the full chapter itself to allow for cohesive understanding. 

Here’s how the cards are formatted…

Medical book experts agree that Virgilio’s is beneficial for grasping surgical concepts. Dakota Thompson from Doody’s Book Reviews (Medical Book Review Service) said: 

“The book is targeted predominantly at medical students. Senior residents, fellows and attendings can also use this book to gather teaching ideas to use during rounds. It is a must read for those entering the specialty of surgery. It is an excellent, up to date book with a detailed, comprehensive overview of all surgical topics that they can finish over the course of a rotation” 

When on surgical rotations in medical school, it can be easy to forget basic theoretical information that you learned during pre-clinical years. But this deck reinforces them!

Knowing the boundaries for dissection, for example, is an important concept highlighted in this card… 

It’s a fairly large-sized deck but it’s super useful (and quick) to run through it you like de Virgilio has a learning resource!

Download de Virgilio’s Surgery Anki Deck here

Surgery Recall Anki Deck

Deck TypeSurgery Clerkship/Shelf & General Medical School Curriculum
Card Format Basic 
Year of Upload 2018 
Required Plugins N/A 
Download size 
Download link Surgery Recall Anki Deck

Surgery Recall Anki Deck is one of the most extensive resources for learning surgery with the basic card flashcard format.

Comprehensive due to its size, it covers multiple aspects of surgery including:

  • Signs/symptoms
  • Treatment
  • Pharmacological management 

It is based on the Surgical Recall textbook by Lorne H Blackbourne.

The book allows for rapid-fire review of surgical clerkship material for medical students preparing for exams or anyone wanting to brush up their knowledge.

It addresses both general surgery and subspecialties. 

Here’s an example card…

In the surgical ward, it is crucial we can observe major signs/symptoms and know when immediate intervention is needed. When cards cover key signs such as Beck’s Triad, we ensure we memorize the fundamentals.

The acronyms and mnemonics included on the cards in Surgery Recall Anki really help with that too.

Download Surgery Recall Anki Deck here

Brosencephalon Surgery Deck

Deck TypeSurgery basics
Card Format Basic 
Year of Upload 2017 
Required Plugins N/A 
Download size 102.6 MB 
Download link Brosencephalon Anki Deck

Brosencephalon’s deck is a comprehensive Internal Medicine collection that focuses on spaced repetition, active recall and test enhanced learning. In total it’s 15202 cards but its surgery section is only 100 cards deep.

It includes vignette-style (brief/concise) and short answer questions. 

Surgery flashcards take UWorld and Pestana as their man resources.

It’s another good alternative if you’re looking for something a little faster to run through than the decks above.

Download Brosencephalon Anki Deck here

Med School Guru’s Surgery Clerkship Deck

Med School Guru’s Anki decks are a collaborative effort between deck creators.

There are comprehensive decks available for Step 1, Step 2 CK, and the major clinical clerkships including Surgery! 

In terms of design, the decks are uniform and cover high-yield primary resources.

The Surgery clerkship deck covers the UWorld CK surgery and OnlineMedEd surgery, parts of UWorld CK medicine relevant to the surgery shelf exam, NBME practice shelf exams, and Dr. Pestana’s Surgery Notes. 

The decks are structured into subdecks and useful tags.

Because these decks are only available to those who are students of the Med School Gurus, we prefer to promote the free alternative surgery Anki decks above.

But it’s a resource definitely worth knowing about!

Yousmle.com Step 2 Anki Deck Surgery Clerkship

If you’re interested in another paid resource that helps you master Step 2 CK, then Yousmle.com’s platform could be one to consider. 

Their Anki series has over 1100 cards that have been tagged by subject. You can study the surgery-relevant cards alone or in conjunction with other clerkship subjects (just as you can with Dorian/Anking’s decks).

What’s nice is that can sign up and get sample cards to view first. Meaning you don’t have to part with any cash unless you like/plan on using the resource. 

Here’s a testimonial of their platform from one surgery student…

“Before Yousmle, I had 168 in Step 1 and went into panic mode. After Yousmle, I had honors in 5 clerkships, 95th percentile in Internal Medicine and 261 on Step 2 CK. 

How true that is, we’ll let you decide!

They recommend studying surgery with a two-fold approach building foundational knowledge first before mastering interpretation. 

If you have over 2 months before your surgery exams, the creators recommend doing the full deck before using their question bank.

If you are time-limited, do their question banks first and search the deck only for topics you struggle with.


Additional Surgery Resources

There are several other platforms besides Anki for those of you who are interested.

Depending on how far into the subject you wish to go, each of these resources goes into varying depth.

Recommended Surgery Textbooks

Although it’s not necessary to study surgery from textbooks, the following recommendations can be a nice supplement to digital flashcards. So much so that the decks above have been built around them!

Surgical Recall (Lippincott Connect)

704 awesome pages of high-yield surgery principles in rapid-fire question-and-answer format. 100X better than ready heavy tomes like Schwartz


Emma Holliday

Emma Holliday has an excellent 2-hour lecture covering high yield surgery topics.

As mentioned before, you can check out our complete guide to Emma Holliday’s High Yield Lectures (along with PDF’s) here.

Use Dorian’s M3 deck alongside this and you’ll be golden!


Just as Dorian’s Clerkship Deck recommends, OnlineMedEd is a great resource to run through in preparation for surgery. Although you have to sign-up first, the 19 lessons in the Surgery section are well worth the entire 4.9-hour runtime.

Also, make sure you run through their 102 surgery question bank.

Where To Find More Anki Surgery Decks 

We highly recommend going on Reddit and searching the r/medicalschoolanki community.

You can filter your results to see the most recent and most relevant pre-made Anki surgery decks for your studies.

Why Use An Anki Surgery Deck?

  1. Excellent free resource
  2. Saves time making your own cards while covering the most high yield principles

Top Tips For Using Anki Surgery Flashcard Decks 

There can be lots of information on some cards which can be overwhelming. Our top tip is to keep it SIMPLE and make sure you are actively practicing cards on a regular basis. 

Keep reviewing the cards where possible, i.e. once you have finished your set for the day, briefly make a mental note or write down where your study session ended.

If you’re studying from a large multi-subject pre-made Anki deck, make sure you use tags and suspend (ctrl + J) all other cards outside of surgery topics.

The general consensus among students studying surgery for clerkships is to review the basics (based on the resources mentioned above), before attempting relevant surgery specialty questions from UWorld.

Related Anki Questions

If you’re not familiar with Anki, I recommend checking out The Anking YouTube channel.

This offers many useful tutorials and tips for Anki users. It’s primarily designed for med students but the content is just as good for students in other fields.


Here’s a good primer (as well as a good intro on what they offer) below…

Why Do I Have To Go To Reddit/Ankiweb To Download?

Reddit/Ankiweb is where these decks are uploaded and shared. The original users deserve credit and the opportunity to be thanked for their hard work.

The files for these decks are hosted in these threads created by the deck’s creator.

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