What does an orthopedic surgeon do?
Orthopedic surgeons often see patients who come in and certainly don’t require surgery, and these are typically patients who have injuries and really either just need activity modification or physical therapy. Some of orthopedic surgery is injury prevention and teaching patients what they can do so that they don’t get injured and so that they can stay out there and play whatever sport or whatever activities they love to do.
Orthopedic surgeons examine, diagnose, and treat diseases and injuries of the musculoskeletal system with surgery and corrective mechanical devices. Orthopedic surgeons use both surgical and nonsurgical means to treat any musculoskeletal trauma, spine diseases, sports injuries, degenerative diseases, infections, and congenital disorders. They take care of bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles, and nerves - everything that allows you to move, work, and do any physical activity.
Conditions treated by an orthopedic surgeon
There are more than 28 million Americans who develop some type of musculoskeletal problem each year. These injuries include, but are not limited to, sprains, strains, and overuse injuries, in addition to shoulder and back pain. Orthopedic surgeons play a critical role in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention, and rehabilitation of all musculoskeletal conditions. They work in both hospitals and specialized practices to perform treatments and procedures. They handle everything of a wide range, from minor issues such as a sprained ankle to complex procedures such as a hip or knee replacement.
Typically, orthopedic surgeons perform surgery as a last resort for musculoskeletal issues. They do everything in their power to delay surgery for as long as possible in favor of less invasive treatments such as medication and physical therapy. It is when these treatments are no longer providing relief for pain and other symptoms that orthopedic doctors may recommend and turn to surgery as an effective treatment. The earlier you are able to get advice about a musculoskeletal issue, the sooner you are able to start treatment. Early treatment prevents an issue from becoming more severe.
Procedures performed by an orthopedic surgeon
In the United States, orthopedic surgeons have typically completed four years of undergraduate education, followed by four years of medical school. Subsequently, these medical school graduates undergo a five year residency training in orthopedic surgery. Some of the most common procedures performed by orthopedic surgeons include:
- Knee arthroscopy and meniscectomy
- Shoulder arthroscopy and decompression
- Carpal tunnel release
- Knee arthroscopy
- Removal of a support implant
- Knee/hip replacement
- Repair of a femoral neck fracture
- Repair of a trochanteric fracture
- Repair of a rotator cuff tendon
- Repair of an ankle fracture
When should you see an orthopedic surgeon?
If you are experiencing any type of pain in your ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, or back, you should consider consulting with an orthopedic surgeon. Some symptoms to look out for include:
- Difficulty using that particular body part to perform daily functions
- Pain in muscles, tendons, or joints
- Joint pain that becomes more intense during periods of rest
- Swelling or bruising around the joint or location of an injury
- Limited range of motion, such as the inability to straighten the back
- Joint deformity
- Signs of infection including heat, inflammation, and fever
- Any other unusual symptoms in the region of pain