Orthopaedics is the medical specialty that focuses on injuries and diseases of your body’s musculoskeletal system. This complex system, which includes your bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles, and nerves, allows you to move, work, and be active.
Once devoted to the care of children with spine and limb deformities, orthopaedists now care for patients of all ages, from newborns with clubfeet to young athletes requiring arthroscopic surgery to older people with arthritis. And anybody can break a bone.
Orthopaedic surgeons treat problems of the musculoskeletal system. This involves:
Diagnosis of your injury or disorder
Treatment with medication, exercise, casting, surgery, or other options
Rehabilitation by recommending exercises or physical therapy to restore movement, strength, and function
Prevention with information and treatment plans to prevent injury or slow the progression of the disease
While orthopedic surgeons are familiar with all aspects of the musculoskeletal system, many orthopaedists specialize in certain areas, such as the foot and ankle, spine, shoulder, hand, hip, or knee. They may also choose to focus on specific fields like pediatrics, trauma, or sports medicine. Some orthopedic surgeons may specialize in several areas.
Your Doctor’s Visit
Your orthopaedic surgeon will take a history of your illness or injury and then do a physical examination. This may be followed by diagnostic studies such as x-rays or blood tests.
He or she will then discuss your diagnosis and help you select the best treatment plan so that you can live an active and functional life.
Orthopaedic surgeons treat many musculoskeletal conditions without surgery—by using the medication, exercise, and other rehabilitative or alternative therapies.
For most orthopaedic diseases and injuries there is more than one form of treatment. If necessary, your orthopaedic surgeon may recommend surgery if you do not respond to nonsurgical treatments.
Orthopaedics surgeons perform numerous types of surgeries. Common procedures include:
Arthroscopy—a procedure that uses special cameras and equipment to visualize, diagnose and treat problems inside a joint.
Fusion—a “welding” process by which bones are fused together with bone grafts and internal devices (such as metal rods) to heal into a single solid bone.
Internal fixation—a method to hold the broken pieces of bone in proper position with metal plates, pins, or screws while the bone is healing.
Joint replacement (partial, total, and revision)—when an arthritic or damaged joint is removed and replaced with an artificial joint called a prosthesis.
Osteotomy—the correction of bone deformity by cutting and repositioning the bone.
Soft tissue repair—the mending of soft tissue, such as torn tendons or ligaments.