Who are they?
An orthopedic surgeon is a physician who specializes in the musculoskeletal system. They specialize in diagnosing, preparing, performing surgery, and rehabilitation of the musculoskeletal system. The musculoskeletal system consists of the bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and nerves of the body. Orthopedic surgeons have extensive medical training. They have completed:
- 4 years of undergrad (bachelor’s degree);
- 4 years of medical school;
- 5+ years of residency; and
- Specialty or additional training
Overall, orthopedic surgeons have at least 13 years of experience in training for what they do. They are trained to help their patients by higher means of medical assistance.
What kinds of injuries do they treat?
Orthopedic surgeons treat many injuries related to the musculoskeletal system; here are some of the injuries they treat:
- Bone fractures and dislocations
- Back injuries
- Injuries to tendons, muscles, cartilage, etc.
- Cerebral Palsy
- Leg dysfunctions
- Growth abnormalities
- Sports and work-related injuries
- Torn, sprained or strained ligaments
Many of these injuries require surgery, but some do not require it. The surgeon and many of their assistants will run tests and interview you about the injury. Usually, the surgeon will come to see you a few times before a final decision is made. If an injury is a joint-related injury, usually the surgeon will test the range of motion in the joint, along with asking how it happened, what kind of pain was felt, what are you comfortable/not comfortable doing with the injury, etc.
What kinds of treatment do they provide?
Some of the surgeries that an orthopedic surgeon performs are:
- Arthroscopy – the procedure of diagnosing, visualizing and treatment of a joint using a camera and other special equipment.
- Internal Fixation – a procedure that holds a bone or bones in their proper position by metal plates, pins, screws while the bone heals.
- Joint replacement – an injured or damaged joint that is in need of repair; sometimes the joint is partially, revised or totally replaced.
- Osteotomy – the cutting and repositioning of bones for proper placement and correction.
- Soft tissue repair – tendons or ligaments in need of repair, usually done by mending.
There may be more than just one form of treatment for a musculoskeletal injury or disease. Orthopedic surgeons want to make the best and most educated decision for you, which is why they and their assistants perform several tests before the final treatment. They will interview you and ask about your history with this injury, they will take blood tests, X-rays, additional diagnostic exams, etc. They want to satisfy you and help you feel back to normal.
When a patient has a musculoskeletal injury but does not need surgery, they may be referred to a pain management doctor or a physical therapist. Some injuries simply require little to no weight-bearing. If someone injures their ankle, the orthopedic surgeon may recommend crutches and physical therapy instead of surgery. They may recommend this if the patient’s ligaments and tendons were not affected. If the patient were to fracture an ankle bone and strain a ligament, the orthopedic surgeon may recommend surgery.
It may be wise to get a second opinion on your injury. For example, you should see a doctor and ask what they think would be the best for your injury. If they recommend surgery, it might be beneficial to see another doctor and ask them the same question. If they both recommend surgery, then surgery is probably the best option.
Defined as an organ system, the musculoskeletal system gives the human body a range of motion or the ability to move. The system provides support, movement, strength, and stability. It also protects many parts of the body including vital organs. Consisting of bones, tendons, ligaments and muscles, joints and other parts of the musculoskeletal system: the knee supports the body’s weight. The ankle and foot absorb friction when walking or running (there are 26 bones and 33 joints in the foot and ankle). The hip provides stability when standing, walking or running. The rib cage protects the vital organs. The arms pull and lift; hands perform complicated tasks. The human body is amazing and can do amazing things. The most important part of the body is the brain, and the musculoskeletal system helps perform functions and ideas of the brain.
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