What is Orthopedic Surgery?

Orthopedic surgery is a surgical specialty involving conditions related to the skeletal system like bones, joints and the body parts attached to them such as ligaments and tendons. That’s known as the musculoskeletal system. It might also include conditions of the spine, joints and muscles. It’s often associated with surgeries for bone injuries caused by trauma, sports injuries or degenerative conditions resulting from the aging process. An orthopedic surgeon might treat something as minor as a wrist or ankle sprain or be involved in something as complex as knee or hip replacement surgery. Along with other procedures, they also perform amputations, spinal fusions, bone grafting and arthroscopic surgery.

Range of Orthopedic Treatment

The orthopedic surgeon is a medical doctor with specialized training. People are usually referred to them by their primary care physician or other doctor. Extensive diagnostics like CT scans, MRIs or myelograms might be performed to determine what the proper corrective procedure should be. They might first try to treat a condition conservatively with medication. If that’s not effective, the next step might be physical therapy. Actual surgical intervention by an orthopedic surgeon is often a last resort for a musculoskeletal condition after all other options have been exhausted. There are other times when orthopedic surgery can be the only form of treatment like with severe fractures from a motorcycle accident.

Implants and Rehabilitation

Orthopedic surgery commonly involves implantation of man-made materials in the body like wires, screws, pins or prosthetic devices. Rehabilitation can be as short as a few days, or it can take months, depending on the nature of the surgery. Physical therapists will work with the patient on improvement of range of motion and functionality of the body part that the surgery focused on.

The Future of Orthopedic Surgery

Orthopedic medicine and engineering continue to develop. New orthopedic devices and procedures will allow orthopedic surgeons to mimic the usual functions of bones, joints, tendons and ligaments and attain enhanced restoration of range of motion and functionality. These include smart implants that can monitor progress, inflammation or infection, robotic and computer assisted technology for purposes of accuracy, or 3-D printing for preoperative planning for cartilage and customized implants. Existing arthroscopic technology will also be expanding with advances in camera technology.