An orthopedic surgeon, also known as an orthopedist, looks after patients who have bone, joint and ligament problems that may be a result of injury, aging or problems present from birth. Injury-related problems are known as acute problems, and problems resulting from aging are known as chronic problems. Basic orthopedic procedures are those performed by such surgeons on a regular basis. These include arthroplasty, arthroscopic surgery, bone grafting, fasciotomy, fracture repair, knee cap removal and traction.
These basic orthopedic procedures often involve inserting screws, pins, wires and tongs into the body, or using prosthetics to fix or replace bones or tissue that has been damaged. The ultimate aim of the surgeon is to allow the body's bones, joints and ligaments to work the way in which they were intended. Basic orthopedic procedures may be carried out under general, regional or local anesthesia.
Arthroplasty is the surgical reconstruction or replacement of a malformed or degenerated joint. If movement of the joint is not improved through repair, a prosthetic joint will be used to replace it, such as in hip surgery and knee surgery. Fasciotomy is when the fascia, or fibrous tissue, and connected cords are cut through to relieve tension or pressure. Bone grafting is when missing bone is replaced with material from another part of the patient's body; the material is inserted into spaces between or around a broken or fractured bone or in the holes in a defective bone to help it to heal.
Fracture repair involves the orthopedic surgeon rejoining and realigning broken bones, using metal screws or wires in smaller bones to keep them together. After the bones have set, the patient must keep the body part rigid with a brace, sling or splint. The next step is traction or electrical stimulation devices. Traction is a procedure in which pins, screws or wires are inserted during surgery to straighten broken bones or take pressure away from the spine and skeletal system, using weights to apply pulling force on the bone. Different types of traction include cervical traction, in cases where the neck vertebrae are fractured; overhead arm traction when the upper arm is fractured; and tibia pin traction for femur, hip or pelvis fractures.
Orthopedics is more than surgery. After all basic orthopedic procedures are carried out, the orthopedic surgeon will discuss aftercare with the patient and make him or her aware of what precautions must be taken. All types of surgery carry a risk of inflammation and infection, making it important to follow the aftercare plan set out by the surgeon.