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What is Orthopedic Surgery?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 17, 2024
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Sometimes referred to as simply orthopedics, orthopedic surgery is the collective term for any type of procedure that has to do with the musculoskeletal system. While referred to as surgery, not all treatment methods involve the use of invasive surgery. An orthopedic physician may utilize combinations of skeletal manipulation, muscle rubs and medication as well as surgery in order to alleviate suffering and help the individual regain a reasonable state of health.

Orthopedic surgery or treatments cover a wide range of ailments and conditions. In some cases, an orthopedic doctor will be addressing trauma to some area of the skeletal system, such as the legs, ankles, or back. The orthopedist may be called upon to deal with infections that are causing pressure or strain on the muscles or bones of an individual. An orthopedic surgeon may be required when some type of degenerative disease or a tumor has invaded the muscle system or is causing ones to begin deteriorating.

Different nations establish the requirements that a healthcare professional must meet before being able to function as an orthopedist. Typically, the individual must successfully complete medical school and follow up with a residency focused on orthopedics. The duration of the residency will vary somewhat, but five years is a standard used in many countries. During that time, the resident will be involved in general surgical procedures for a short time, then focus specifically on orthopedic surgery for the remainder of the residency.

A working knowledge of orthopedics is often helpful in a number of fields of medical specialization. Healthcare professionals who practice sports medicine often receive some amount of training in orthopedic surgery. Practitioners of chiropractic medicine are often well-versed in basic orthopedic treatments and techniques. This is understandable, since chiropractic medicine seeks to treat a number of ailments by promoting the proper alignment of the skeletal system.

A number of specialized medical services fall under the broad category of orthopedic surgery. Surgical procedures on the hands or feet are classified as orthopedic in nature. Reconstructing joints or arthroplasty is also considered a form of orthopedics. Any surgery involving the spine also falls under the umbrella of orthopedic surgery.

Obtaining certification as an orthopedic surgeon is usually accomplished by completing the required educational and residency requirements set within a given nation. In addition, the surgeon must apply for certification from the agency that oversees medical licensing and certification within that country. The American Board of Orthopedic Surgery oversees these functions in the United States, while in Canada the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons handles the certification process.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including WiseGeek, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By Wisedly33 — On Jun 30, 2014

I'd say there's definitely a knack to being a good orthopedic surgeon, just like there is to any other profession. Some surgeons, though, do seem to have consistently better outcomes than others. I'm not sure whether it's because they are willing to do more than the average surgeon, do less than the average surgeon, or what. But I would do research on patient outcomes before I chose an orthopedic surgeon, for sure.

In general, I'd want someone who has done hundreds of similar procedures every year, as opposed to someone who has done five or six a year. You want someone with a lot of practice.

By Scrbblchick — On Jun 30, 2014

An orthopedic surgeon can really make or break someone's physical health after a broken bone or similar.

My mom needed a disc laminectomy, and there was a surgeon in town who did back cases exclusively. He was considered one of the best, and he was! He was a younger surgeon at the time and he is still the only surgeon in this state I'd want working on my back, if I needed it.

It seems like back surgeons, especially, are either really good or really not good. There's just not much in-between with them. And the back is one of those areas where people just don't seem to recover as quickly, unless they have a really top-notch surgeon. Fortunately, my mom did.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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