What is an Orthopaedic Surgeon?
An orthopaedic surgeon is a medical doctor who specializes in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention, and rehabilitation of musculoskeletal injuries, disorders, and diseases. The musculoskeletal system includes bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and other connective tissues that enable movement and support the body. Orthopaedic surgeons may focus on a specific area of the musculoskeletal system, such as the spine, foot and ankle, hand, shoulder and elbow, or hip and knee, or they may treat a wide range of conditions. They use both surgical and non-surgical techniques to restore function, alleviate pain, and improve the quality of life of their patients.
Orthopaedic surgeons may work in hospitals, clinics, private practices, or academic medical centers. They collaborate with other healthcare professionals, such as physical therapists, occupational therapists, and sports medicine specialists, to develop comprehensive treatment plans for their patients. They may also conduct research to advance the field of orthopaedics and improve patient outcomes.
What does an Orthopaedic Surgeon do?
Duties and Responsibilities
The duties and responsibilities of an orthopaedic surgeon can vary depending on their area of specialization, but some of the common tasks performed by orthopaedic surgeons include:
- Diagnosing Conditions: Orthopaedic surgeons are responsible for examining patients and using medical imaging tests, such as X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans, to diagnose conditions affecting the musculoskeletal system.
- Developing Treatment Plans: Based on their diagnosis, orthopaedic surgeons develop treatment plans for their patients. This may involve prescribing medication, physical therapy, or recommending surgical intervention.
- Performing Surgery: When non-surgical treatments are not effective or when surgery is the best option, orthopaedic surgeons perform surgical procedures to correct problems with bones, joints, and other parts of the musculoskeletal system.
- Providing Follow-Up Care: After surgery, orthopaedic surgeons are responsible for providing follow-up care to ensure that the patient is healing properly. This may involve monitoring their progress, adjusting their treatment plan, and providing rehabilitation services.
- Collaborating with Other Healthcare Professionals: Orthopaedic surgeons often work closely with other healthcare professionals, such as physical therapists, radiologists, and anesthesiologists, to ensure that their patients receive the best possible care.
- Conducting Research: Orthopaedic surgeons may conduct research to advance the field of orthopaedics and improve patient outcomes. This may involve studying new surgical techniques, developing new treatments, or investigating the causes of musculoskeletal conditions.
- Educating Patients: Orthopaedic surgeons educate their patients about their condition, treatment options, and ways to prevent future injuries. They may also provide information about exercises and lifestyle changes that can help improve their condition.
- Participating in Continuing Education: To stay up-to-date with the latest advancements in the field, orthopaedic surgeons participate in continuing education and professional development activities. This may involve attending conferences, workshops, or completing additional training courses.
Conditions Orthopaedic Surgeons Treat
Some of the conditions that orthopedic surgeons treat include:
- Fractures: Orthopedic surgeons treat broken bones caused by trauma, such as car accidents, falls, and sports injuries.
- Arthritis: Orthopedic surgeons treat various forms of arthritis, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriatic arthritis.
- Joint injuries: Orthopedic surgeons treat injuries to the joints, such as sprains, strains, and dislocations.
- Tendinitis: Orthopedic surgeons treat inflammation of the tendons, which can be caused by overuse or injury.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome: Orthopedic surgeons treat this condition, which occurs when the median nerve in the wrist is compressed.
- Spinal disorders: Orthopedic surgeons treat conditions of the spine, including herniated discs, spinal stenosis, and scoliosis.
- Sports injuries: Orthopedic surgeons treat injuries that occur during sports, such as ACL tears, rotator cuff tears, and tennis elbow.
- Congenital disorders: Orthopedic surgeons treat conditions that are present at birth, such as clubfoot and hip dysplasia.
- Osteoporosis: Orthopedic surgeons treat this condition, which causes the bones to become weak and brittle.
- Cancer: Orthopedic surgeons treat bone and soft tissue tumors, as well as bone metastases from other cancers.
Types of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Orthopaedic surgery is a complex and diverse field with many different subspecialties. Each type of orthopaedic surgeon is trained to provide specialized care to patients with specific musculoskeletal conditions and injuries. Here are some of the most common types of orthopaedic surgeons:
- General Orthopaedic Surgeons: These are orthopaedic surgeons who provide a broad range of services, treating a variety of musculoskeletal conditions and injuries.
- Joint Replacement Surgeons: These orthopaedic surgeons specialize in performing joint replacement surgeries, such as hip, knee, and shoulder replacements.
- Sports Medicine Surgeons: These orthopaedic surgeons specialize in treating sports-related injuries, such as sprains, strains, and fractures. They often work with athletes and sports teams.
- Pediatric Orthopaedic Surgeons: These orthopaedic surgeons specialize in treating musculoskeletal conditions and injuries in children, from infancy through adolescence.
- Spine Surgeons: These orthopaedic surgeons specialize in treating conditions related to the spine, such as herniated discs, spinal stenosis, and scoliosis.
- Hand and Upper Extremity Surgeons: These orthopaedic surgeons specialize in treating conditions and injuries of the hand, wrist, forearm, elbow, and shoulder.
- Foot and Ankle Surgeons: These orthopaedic surgeons specialize in treating conditions and injuries of the foot and ankle, such as fractures, sprains, and plantar fasciitis.
- Orthopaedic Oncology Surgeons: These orthopaedic surgeons specialize in treating bone and soft tissue tumors, both benign and malignant.
- Trauma Surgeons: These orthopaedic surgeons specialize in treating complex fractures and other orthopaedic injuries that result from accidents or trauma.
What is the workplace of an Orthopaedic Surgeon like?
The workplace of an orthopaedic surgeon can vary depending on their area of specialization and their practice setting. Most orthopaedic surgeons work in hospitals, clinics, or private practices, but they may also work in academic or research settings.
In a hospital setting, orthopaedic surgeons typically have a team of healthcare professionals working alongside them, including nurses, anesthesiologists, and surgical technicians. They may perform surgeries in a dedicated operating room or a surgical suite that is specifically designed for orthopaedic procedures. In addition to surgery, orthopaedic surgeons may provide inpatient care, which involves managing post-operative pain, monitoring vital signs, and adjusting treatment plans as needed.
In a private practice, orthopaedic surgeons may work alone or as part of a group practice. They may have their own clinic or share space with other healthcare professionals. Private practice orthopaedic surgeons typically see patients on an outpatient basis, providing consultations, diagnosis, and treatment for a range of musculoskeletal conditions. They may also perform surgeries in a nearby hospital or surgical center.
Orthopaedic surgeons in academic or research settings may split their time between patient care and research activities. They may teach medical students or residents, conduct research studies, or collaborate with other researchers to advance the field of orthopaedics. These orthopaedic surgeons may work in hospitals or academic medical centers, where they have access to cutting-edge technologies and facilities.
Frequently Asked Questions
Comprehensive List of Doctor Specializations and Degrees
Here is a comprehensive list of specializations that a doctor can pursue and a brief summary of each specialization:
- Allergist: An allergist specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of allergies, asthma, and related conditions. Allergists have specialized training in the recognition and management of allergic reactions.
- Anesthesiologist: An anesthesiologist keeps a patient comfortable, safe and pain-free during surgery by administering local or general anesthetic.
- Cardiologist: A cardiologist specializes in finding, treating, and preventing diseases that affect the heart, the arteries, and the veins.
- Cardiothoracic Surgeon: A cardiothoracic surgeon specializes in surgical procedures inside the thorax (the chest), which may involve the heart, lungs, esophagus, and other organs in the chest. As well as performing surgery, they also diagnose and treat diseases of these organs.
- Chiropractic Neurologist: A chiropractic neurologist is a specialized type of chiropractor who has undergone additional training in the field of neurology. They diagnose and treat conditions that affect the brain, spinal cord, and other parts of the nervous system.
- Chiropractor: A chiropractor, or doctor of chiropractic medicine, specializes in diagnosing and treating disorders of the musculoskeletal and nervous system, especially in the spine. Treatment is usually physical manipulation of the joints and the spine to bring them back into alignment. A chiropractor does not perform surgery or prescribe medication.
- Colorectal Surgeon: A colorectal surgeon specializes in diseases of the colon, rectum, and anus, as well as the entire gastric tract. These surgeons work closely with urologists, who handle the urogenital tract in males and the urinary tract of women, gynecologists, who deal with specific female issues, and gastroenterologists, who deal with diseases of the gut.
- Doctor: An general overview of what a doctor does and how to become one.
- Dentist: Dentists identify potential oral health issues such as gum disease, as well as examine patients, order medical tests and determine the correct diagnosis and treatment. They also perform oral surgery and remove teeth or address other dental health problems.
- Dermatologist: A dermatologist specializes in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of conditions affecting skin, hair, sweat and oil glands, nails, and mucus membranes (inside the mouth, nose, and eyelids) which can include cancer.
- Emergency Medicine Physician: An emergency medicine physician works in emergency departments, hospitals, and urgent care clinics, and is often the first medical professional that patients see when they are in need of urgent medical care.
- Endocrinologist: An endocrinologist specializes in diagnosing conditions and diseases related to the glands and hormones. While primary care doctors know a lot about the human body, for conditions and diseases directly related to glands and hormones they will typically send a patient to an endocrinologist.
- Family Practitioner: A family practitioner specializes in caring for the entire family. Patients can be children, adults, and the elderly, and are treated for a wide array of medical issues.
- Forensic Pathologist: A forensic pathologist investigates the cause of sudden and unexpected deaths, and is able to determine how a person died by performing an autopsy and studying tissue and laboratory results. These doctors are often called upon to provide evidence in court regarding the cause and time of such deaths.
- Gastroenterologist: A gastroenterologist has specific training in diagnosing and treating conditions and diseases of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. This may include diseases and disorders that affect the the biliary system (liver, pancreas, gallbladder, and bile ducts), as well as the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine (colon).
- Geriatrician: A geriatrician specializes in the care of elderly patients, and often works with patients who have multiple chronic conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease, as well as age-related cognitive and functional impairments.
- Gynecologist: A gynecologist specializes in women's reproductive systems. Gynecologists are also sometimes certified as obstetricians, and will monitor the health of the mother and the fetus during a pregnancy.
- Hematologist: A doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of blood disorders, such as anemia and leukemia.
- Hospitalist: A hospitalist is a physician whose focus is the general medical care of hospitalized patients. Their duties include patient care, teaching, research, and leadership related to hospital medicine.
- Immunologist: An immunologist specializes in managing problems related to the immune system, such as allergies and autoimmune diseases. A smaller number of immunologists are strictly researchers seeking to better understand how the immune system works and to help develop better ways of diagnosing and providing treatment for many immunological conditions.
- Infectious Disease Specialist: A doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of infectious diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and hepatitis.
- Internist: An internist is a 'doctor of internal medicine' who can diagnose, treat, and practice compassionate care for adults across the spectrum, from health to complex illness. They are not to be mistaken with "interns," who are doctors in their first year of residency training.
- Medical Examiner: Medical examiners are responsible for performing autopsies and collecting evidence related to the circumstances of a death, including medical history, physical examination findings, and toxicology tests.
- Naturopathic Physician: A naturopathic physician blends modern scientific medical practice and knowledge with natural and traditional forms of medical treatment. The goal is to treat the underlying causes of disease while stimulating the body's own healing abilities.
- Nephrologist: A doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of kidney diseases. They treat conditions such as chronic kidney disease, acute kidney injury, kidney stones, hypertension, and electrolyte imbalances.
- Neurologist: A neurologist specializes in treating diseases that affect the human nervous system. It is a very prestigious and difficult medical specialty due to the complexity of the nervous system, which consists of the brain, the spinal cord and the peripheral nerves.
- Neurosurgeon: A neurosurgeon specializes in the diagnosis and surgical treatment of disorders of the central and peripheral nervous system. This includes congenital anomalies, trauma, tumours, vascular disorders, infections of the brain or spine, stroke, or degenerative diseases of the spine.
- Obstetrician: An obstetrician is a medical doctor who specializes in caring for women during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period.
- Occupational Physician: Occupational medicine is focused on keeping individuals well at work, both mentally and physically. As workplaces become more complex, occupational physicians play an important role in advising people on how their work can affect their health.
- Oncologist: An oncologist specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. The three primary types of oncologists are: medical oncologists that specialize in the administration of drugs to kill cancer cells; surgical oncologists that perform surgical procedures to identify and remove cancerous tumors; and radiation oncologists that treat cancer with radiation therapy.
- Ophthalmologist: An ophthalmologist is a specialist that deals specifically with the structure, function, diseases, and treatment of the eye. Due to the complexities and the importance of the eye as a special sense that provides vision, the discipline of ophthalmology is dedicated solely to this organ.
- Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon: An oral and maxillofacial surgeon treats dental and medical problems involving the oral cavity and the maxillofacial area. The maxillofacial area includes the bones of the forehead, face, cheekbones and the soft tissues. Treatment often involves performing surgery and related procedures to treat diseases, defects, or injuries, and to improve function or appearance.
- Orthopaedic Surgeon / Orthopedist: An orthopaedic surgeon (or orthopedist) examines, diagnoses, and treats diseases and injuries of the musculoskeletal system. This system includes the bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, tendons, and nerves.
- Orthodontist: An orthodontist specializes in how the jaws and teeth are aligned. They help people whose teeth are misaligned or require some kind of correction – those with an improper bite, or malocclusion.
- Osteopath: Osteopaths have attended and graduated from an osteopathic medical school and practise the system of healthcare known as osteopathy. They consider all aspects of the patient, not just the symptoms they exhibit. They see the integrated nature of the body’s organ systems and its capacity for self-regulation and self-healing.
- Otolaryngologist: Otolaryngologists (or ENT physicians) are specialists trained in the diagnosis and treatment of patients with diseases and disorders of the ear, nose, throat (ENT), and related structures of the head and neck. These specialists are trained in both medicine and surgery.
- Pathologist: A pathologist studies the causes, nature, and effects of disease. The field of pathology is broad with concentrations on changes in cells, tissues, and organs that are the result of a disease.
- Pediatrician: A pediatrician specializes in providing medical care to infants, children and teenagers by administering treatments, therapies, medications and vaccinations to treat illness, disorders or injuries.
- Periodontist: A periodontist is a dentist who specializes in oral inflammation, and who knows how to prevent, diagnose, and treat periodontal disease.
- Plastic Surgeon: A plastic surgeon specializes in reshaping healthy body parts for aesthetic reasons, and also in repairing or replacing body parts damaged by accidents, illness or malformation.
- Podiatrist: A podiatrist practices podiatric medicine, which is a branch of science devoted to the diagnosis, treatment and study of medical disorders of the foot, ankle, lower leg and lower back. In the U.S. and Canada, podiatry is practiced as a specialty.
- Prosthodontist: A prosthodontist specializes in restoring the look, function, comfort, and health of a patient's oral cavity with artificial materials. These artificial materials are made up of a wide variety of restorations that include fillings, dentures, veneers, crowns, bridges and oral implants.
- Psychiatrist: Psychiatrists are physicians who evaluate, diagnose and treat patients who are affected by a temporary or chronic mental health problem.
- Pulmonologist: A pulmonologist specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of pulmonary (lung) conditions and diseases of the chest, particularly pneumonia, asthma, tuberculosis, emphysema, and complicated chest infections.
- Radiologist: A radiologist is a specialist in interpreting medical images that may be obtained with x-rays, (CT scans or radiographs), nuclear medicine (involving radioactive substances, magnetism (MRI), or ultrasound.
- Rheumatologist: A doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of rheumatic diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
- Sports Medicine Physician: A sports medicine physician specializes in taking care of people who have sports injuries that may be acquired from playing sports, exercising, or from otherwise being physically active.
- Surgeon: A surgeon performs surgery for the purpose of removing diseased tissue or organs, to repair body systems, or to replace diseased organs with transplants.
- Urologist: A urologist specializes in the treatment of the male and female urinary tract and the male reproductive organs. Urologists can treat the kidneys, urinary bladder, urethra, uterus, and male reproductive organs. There are also specific specialty areas that urologists may choose to focus on, such as pediatric urology, male infertility, and urologic oncology.
- Vascular Medicine Specialist - A vascular medicine specialist specializes in the diagnosis and nonsurgical treatment of conditions affecting the blood vessels. They may work with patients who have conditions such as deep vein thrombosis, peripheral artery disease, or pulmonary embolism.
- Vascular Surgeon - A vascular surgeon specializes in the diagnosis and surgical treatment of conditions affecting the blood vessels, including aneurysms, peripheral artery disease, and varicose veins.
- Osteopathic Medicine
- Naturopathic Medicine
- Podiatric Medicine
- Veterinary Medicine
Orthopaedic Surgeons are also known as: