Orthopedics - Further information
In which specialist field are orthopedics specialists active?
Orthopedics specialists, or orthopaedics specialists, have medical expertise in the diagnosis and preoperative, operative and postoperative treatment of injuries, diseases and conditions of the musculoskeletal system. That means that if you have experienced a herniated disc, torn or ruptured a cruciate ligament, dislocated a shoulder or suffered meniscus (cartilage) damage, you will require the help of an orthopedics specialist.
Although orthopedics specialists also use non-surgical treatments, this is essentially medicine’s broadest surgical field, in which doctors often describe themselves as "general orthopedic surgeons". Surgical advances in this field mean orthopedics specialists are now proficient in fields such as:
- viscosupplementation, during which lubricating fluid is injected into a joint, for example to treat an arthritic condition
- cementoplasty, which is packing bone structures with cement, for example to prevent vertebral fractures and relieve pain in patients with osteoporosis
- intervertebral disc chemolysis, which is the direct injection of a proteolytic enzyme into a herniated disc
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Family physicians will refer often patients to an orthopedics specialist, who will also collaborate with specialists in several other medical fields, such as:
- a physiotherapist, who is qualified to treat disease, injury or deformity by physical methods, such as exercise, heat treatment and massage.
- an acupuncture specialist, an expert who can insert extremely thin needles into your body at strategic points. This form of traditional Chinese medicine is commonly used to treat pain.
- an osteopath, who is an expert trained in drug-free, non-invasive manual medicine that focuses on the treatment and strengthening of the musculoskeletal framework.
- a chiropractor, who is a health care professional offering manual treatment for disorders of the bones, muscles and joints.
- a pain management specialist, who may be needed to recommend ways to manage and reduce the pain caused by some conditions.
- an oncologist, whose expertise may be required if the presence of a cancer is suspected.
Which illnesses do orthopedics specialists treat?
Orthopedic surgeons use both surgical and non-surgical techniques and practices to treat:
- musculoskeletal trauma
- spinal disease
- sports injuries
- degenerative diseases
- congenital disorders
What treatment methods are used by orthopedics specialists?
Orthopedics specialists are often called upon to perform surgical interventions to ease a broad range of medical conditions. Some of the most frequently performed procedures include:
- knee arthroscopy and meniscectomy, a procedure in which an arthroscope (a thin, camera-equipped device) and other tools are used to remove damaged meniscus (fibrocartilage) in the knee.
- shoulder arthroscopy and decompression, a procedure employed to treat shoulder impingement (squeezing or pinching of tendons).
- carpal tunnel release, a procedure designed to release pressure on the median nerve and relieve the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.
- knee arthroscopy and chondroplasty, which removes damaged cartilage tissue in order to allow healthy cartilage to grow in its place.
- removal of support implants, which is a procedure to take away devices such as metal pins, screws, plates, surgical wires or bone implants used to fix bone structures.
- knee arthroscopy and anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction, which is a type of keyhole surgery used to repair an important knee ligament.
- knee replacement, which is a surgical procedure employed to resurface an arthritis-damaged knee, using metal and plastic inserts.
- repair of femoral neck fracture, a technique that involves the careful strengthening and realignment of the thigh bone structure after a break in the neck of the femur (thigh bone).
- repair of trochanteric fracture, a procedure to repair one of the main types of hip fracture.
- debridement of skin/muscle/bone/fracture, which involves the surgical removal of dead, damaged or infected tissue.
- knee arthroscopy repair of both menisci, a procedure used to repair torn knee cartilage.
- hip replacement surgery is a major procedure to replace a painful hip joint with an artificial joint.
What additional qualifications are required by orthopedics specialists?
To qualify as an orthopedics specialist, a candidate must first attend medical school for four years. This is then followed by another five years of accredited graduate medical education, which consists of four years of residency training in orthopedic surgery, plus an extra years’ training in a broad-based accredited residency program, such as pediatrics, internal medicine or general surgery.
To become certified as an orthopedic specialist, a candidate must:
- fulfil the orthopedic residency
- fulfil a two-year practice in orthopedic surgery
- successfully complete an oral examination
Many programs encourage research, and there are several areas of special interest that orthopedic surgeons may wish to choose as a focus for their practice. This requires further fellowship training of between six months to a year in specialist areas, such as: