An orthopaedic surgeon is a physician devoted to the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and rehabilitation of injuries, disorders and diseases of the body's musculoskeletal system. This system includes bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, nerves and tendons.
While orthopaedic surgeons are familiar with all aspects of the musculoskeletal system, many orthopaedists specialize in certain areas, such as the foot and ankle, hand, shoulder and elbow, spine, hip or knee. Orthopaedic surgeons may also choose to focus on specific fields like pediatrics, trauma, reconstructive surgery, oncology (bone tumors) or sports medicine.
Orthopaedic surgeons treat patients of all ages – newborns, children, athletes, baby boomers and the elderly – with conditions that range from bone and joint disorders and fractures to diseases or tears of the muscles, ligaments and tendons in all regions of the body.
It is essential that patients and their families develop partnerships with their physicians. This will help ensure that decisions about medical treatments honor the patients’ wants, needs, preferences and values. Orthopaedic surgeons respect the value of diversity and are committed to serving communities and individuals with unique needs.
An orthopaedic surgeon treats many musculoskeletal conditions without surgery, by using medications, exercise and other rehabilitative or alternative therapies. If necessary, he/she may also recommend surgical treatment if the patient does not respond to other treatments.
Some of the conditions and diseases an orthopaedic surgeon treats include:
Orthopaedic surgeons perform numerous types of surgeries on patients. Common surgeries include:
In general, visits with an orthopaedic surgeon start with a personal interview, physical examination and review of previous records or tests. This may be followed by additional diagnostic exams, such as blood tests, X-rays or other images. For most orthopaedic conditions and injuries there may be more than one form of treatment. The orthopaedic surgeon will discuss treatment options with the patient to mutually determine the plan best suited for his/her health and lifestyle.
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