For many people, orthopedics is a branch of medicine shrouded in mystery. What exactly do orthopedic surgeons do? Is there more than one branch of orthopedics? If you have ever found yourself pondering questions like these, read on. This article will outline four of the different specializations that an orthopedic surgeon may have.
Total Joint Replacement
Orthopedic surgeons trained in this type of procedure are responsible for replacing damaged joints. This is done by first removing the damaged joint entirely, and then replacing it with a prosthesis designed to perform in the same way. This type of surgery is becoming more and more commonplace; there were nearly 1 million total joint replacements performed in the United States in 2011.
Total joint replacement is generally only considered as an option in cases where non-surgical types of treatment have failed. That said, total joint replacement operations enjoy a high measure of success. For instance, the percentage of knee replacement surgeries that require re-operation in their first ten years is a mere 3 to 5%.
As its name would imply, orthopedic surgeons with a specialty in sports medicine receive specific training in the treatment of sports-related injury. This training takes the form of a special one-year fellowship. Many of those who receive such fellowships go on to work for professional sports teams.
Among the most common types of procedures performed by these doctors are:
- anterior cruciate ligament repair
- arthroscopic cartilage repair
- arthroscopic shoulder surgery
The mechanics of the hand are incredibly complex. For that reason, orthopedic surgeons wanting to specialize in the field of hand surgery must undergo an additional one-year hand fellowship. There these doctors receive intensive training in surgeries pertaining to such conditions as:
- wrist pain
- carpal tunnel syndrome
- rheumatoid arthritis
- congenital defects
A specialization in spine surgery gives an orthopedic doctor the skills and knowledge necessary to treat a number of spinal ailments. Gaining this specialization generally requires participation in a spine fellowship program.
Yet orthopedic doctors are not the only ones capable of performing surgeries involving the spine. Neurosurgeons also possess this capability. But while the two overlap when it comes to certain procedures, there are also procedures for which each type of doctor is more qualified.
For instance, orthopedic surgeons are often more qualified to perform surgery related to spinal deformities such as scoliosis. A neurosurgeon, on the other hand, will tend to focus more on so-called intradural surgeries--that is, those which involve changes to the inside of the spinal cord itself.
All orthopedic surgeons like Francis X. Mendoza, MD deal in one way or another with bones, tendons, and ligaments. Yet within that broad category, there is room for many different types of specialization. Understanding the various types of orthopedic surgeons will help make it easier to find the best doctor to meet your needs.