What is an Orthopaedic Surgeon?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 26 March 2020
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An orthopaedic surgeon, also called an orthopedic surgeon, is a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and performing surgical procedures on those who have musculoskeletal conditions and injuries. This type of doctor provides care before, during, and after surgery, often working with other medical providers to treat individuals with diseases and injuries that affect an individual's bones, joints, and nerves. This type of surgeon also cares for patients with conditions and injuries that involve their ligaments, tendons, and muscles.

There are many conditions an orthopaedic surgeon may treat. Among them are arthritis, broken bones, and sprains. An orthopaedic surgeon also works to help patients with bone abnormalities, such as bowed legs, clubfeet, and bunions. Patients with damage to their muscles, tendons, and ligaments may also see an orthopaedic surgeon. Patients who have osteoporosis, a conditioned marked by weakened bones, may seek orthopaedic care as well.

Some orthopaedic surgeons choose to specialize in a specific type of orthopaedic care. While some elect to become general orthopaedic surgeons, others choose to specialize in such areas as foot and ankle, joint replacement, hand, or spine orthopaedics. Some may choose to work with children or focus on rehabilitation while others concentrate on sports medicine. There are even some who concentrate solely on treating patients with traumatic injuries.


Many orthopaedic surgeons work in hospitals and sports clinics, but others choose to open private practices. While many orthopaedic surgeons see patients and perform surgery on a regular basis, others take a different path. Some choose to teach at universities while others pursue careers in research.

Careers in orthopaedic surgery typically require many years of education and training. First, an individual who hopes to pursue this field has to earn a high school diploma or an equivalent credential. The next step is college and finally medical school, which normally lasts for about four years. This means a prospective orthopaedic surgeon spends at least eight years on education after high school.

After completing medical school, an aspiring orthopaedic surgeon goes on to a residency program that typically lasts for five years. A year of this training is usually spent on general surgery while the other fours years focus on specific training in orthopaedic surgery. Residency training is usually completed under the supervision of more experienced doctors.

In many countries, orthopaedic surgeons are required to seek licenses or certification. This usually involves passing a medical licensing exam. Some countries offer optional certification in addition to licensing. In such cases, surgeons may have to secure additional residency training, takes additional exams, submit to peer reviews, and gain significant experience in the field before they are certified.



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