Health Care Providers: Orthopedists
What Is Orthopedics?
Orthopedics (or-tho-PEE-diks) is health care that corrects or prevents problems or injuries of the musculoskeletal system — our bones, joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
What Is an Orthopedist?
An orthopedist (or-tho-PEE-dist), or orthopedic surgeon, studies, diagnoses, and treats conditions that affect muscles, joints, and bones, such as infections, sports injuries, broken bones, and joint problems.
Why Would Someone Need One?
Orthopedists help people with problems such as:
- bone fractures
- injuries, including sports injuries
- bone tumors
- cerebral palsy
- hip disorders such as developmental dysplasia of the hip
- limb length discrepancies and other limb differences
- osteogenesis imperfecta (brittle bone disease)
- skeletal dysplasia (dwarfism)
- spina bifida
They do such medical tests and procedures as:
- arthroscopy (minimally invasive procedure to diagnose and fix joint problems)
- many kinds of surgery (such as bone fracture repair and fusion surgery)
- draining fluid from joints
- debridement (removing damaged soft tissues or bone)
- limb-lengthening surgery
What Is Their Training?
Orthopedist training typically includes:
- 4 years of pre-medical education at a college or university
- 4 years of medical school — a medical degree (MD) or doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO) degree
- 4–5 years of training in an orthopedic surgery residency
They also might do a fellowship in a subspecialty area (for example, pediatric orthopedic surgery). A “fellow” is a doctor who had more specialty training after completing medical school and residency training.
Good to Know
Orthopedic care often involves a team approach. Other professionals on the team might include:
- athletic trainers
- nurse practitioners
- physical therapists
- physician assistants
- social workers