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1. Who Is an Orthopedic Surgeon?
An orthopedic surgeon is a physician who provides surgical treatment for diseases of the musculoskeletal system, which is comprised of bones, joints, muscles, and other connective tissues. To become an orthopedic surgeon, after completing medical school, a doctor must complete an orthopedic surgery residency program. This may be followed by additional subspecialty training in hand surgery, sports medicine, pediatric orthopedics, traumatology, reconstructive surgery, spinal surgery, and oncology.
Orthopedic surgeons diagnose and provide preoperative and postoperative care for conditions such as fractures, spine disorders, osteoporosis, arthritis, torn meniscus, carpal tunnel syndrome, bone abnormalities, bone infections, and trauma, sports or work-related soft tissue injuries.
Orthopedic surgeons work with providers in other specialties to make decisions about the management and treatment of problems related to the musculoskeletal system, including emergency medicine, neurosurgery, oncology, and others. A primary care provider will refer a patient to an orthopedic surgeon when diagnosed with a bone or joint related problem.
2. When Should I See an Orthopedic Surgeon?
Your primary care provider will usually refer you to an orthopedic surgeon. You may need to see an orthopedist if you are having symptoms that may indicate a problem with your bones or related structures. These symptoms may be:
• Swelling, bruising, or bleeding
• Joint or muscle pain
• Joint stiffness, redness, or swelling
• Numbness and tingling
• Limited mobility or inability to move a limb
• A visibly out-of-place or misshapen limb or joint
You might see an orthopedist for these types of problems:
• Fractures, dislocations, sprains, and strains
• Back problems such as pain or slipped (herniated) disk
• Damage to muscles, tendons, or ligamentsInjuries from trauma, sports, or work
• Joint and bone deformity
• Growth abnormalities
3. What Tests Does an Orthopedic Surgeon Perform or Recommend?
If a problem is suspected in your bones or soft tissues (muscles, tendons, or ligaments), your orthopedic surgeon may request or perform tests to diagnose the cause of the symptom. These tests may include:
• Clinical tests such as reflex response, gait analysis, manual muscle testing, range of motion (ROM)
• Blood tests
• Nerve conduction analysis
• Imaging tests including x-ray, CT scan, MRI, DEXA, fluoroscopy, arthrography, ultrasound, and more
• Joint aspiration and analysis
4. What Procedures Does an Orthopedic Surgeon Perform or Recommend?
Orthopedic surgeons perform surgical procedures such as:
• Reconstructive surgery
• Replacement surgery (arthroplasty) such as hip and knee replacement
• Joint arthroscopy
• Fracture repair
• Spine surgery such as laminotomy, discectomy, laminectomy, spinal fusion
• Bone grafting
• Tissue repair of torn ligaments, muscles, or tendons
• Bone or muscle biopsy
5. What Questions Should I Ask an Orthopedic Surgeon?
You may want to ask an orthopedic surgeon online or in person these kinds of questions:
• What is my condition? What is the recommended treatment?
• Please explain the recommended surgical procedure and the type of anesthesia that will be used.
• Are there any non-surgical treatments available?
• What are the success rates? Are there any risks involved?
• Should I continue taking my other medicines?
• Will the treatment affect my work or other activities?
• Will I need more surgeries in the future? If so, when?
• Will I need crutches or a wheelchair during my recovery?
• Will I be able to go to the bathroom after the surgery?
• Do I need prosthesis? How long will my implant last? What is the implant made of?
• How long will my hospital stay be? How long does recovery take? Are there any restrictions during my recovery?
• Will I need physical therapy after the surgery?
• What can reduce my pain and discomfort?
• How can I make my home safer for me? What precautions do I need to take post-surgery?