Orthopaedic surgery or orthopedics, also spelled orthopaedic, is the branch of surgery concerned with conditions involving the musculoskeletal system. Orthopedic surgeons use both surgical and nonsurgical means to treat musculoskeletal trauma, spine diseases, sports injuries, degenerative diseases, infections, tumors, and congenital disorders.
Many developments in orthopedic surgery have resulted from experiences during wartime. On the battlefields of the Middle Ages the injured were treated with bandages soaked in horses’ blood which dried to form a stiff, but unsanitary, splint.
Originally, the term orthopedics meant the correcting of musculoskeletal deformities in children
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:
• Abnormalities of the fingers and toes
• Back pain, ruptured disks, sciatica and scoliosis
• Bone tumors, muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy
• Club foot, bunions, bow legs, knock knees and unequal leg length
• Fractures and dislocations
• Growth abnormalities
• Rheumatoid arthritis
• Sports or work-related injuries
• Tendon injuries, pulled muscles, bursitis and torn cartilage
• Torn ligaments, sprains and strains
Orthopaedic surgeons perform numerous types of surgeries on patients. Common surgeries include:
• Arthroscopy – a procedure using 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.