Injuries to the muscles and skeletal system impact more than 135 million people in the United States every year. These injuries include sports injuries, back strain from work-related injuries, and hip and bone injuries in the elderly. For injuries like this, most doctors will refer patients to an orthopedic surgeon.
Licensed orthopedic surgeons are doctors who specialize in the musculoskeletal system. This includes tendons, nerves, muscles, ligaments, joints, and bones. Some orthopedic surgeons decide to specialize even farther, dedicating their study to hands, the spine, hips or knees, or even the foot and ankle. Breaking down the specializations even further, orthopedic surgeons also branch into other specializations. These include sports medicine, pediatrics, and emergency medicine, to name a few.
There are many reasons why someone might visit an orthopedic surgeon. Here are four instances where someone might need to visit an orthopedic surgeon.
1. Sports Knee Injuries – No matter what type of sports you play, there’s always the risk of injury, no matter how well you prepare. Typical sports injuries occur at the joints, especially the knee, shoulder, elbow, and ankle. Common knee injuries are tears to the ligaments, including the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), the PCL (posterior cruciate ligament), and the LCL and MCL (lateral and medial collateral ligaments). Ligament injuries to the knee are painful, but modern techniques have made repairing them easier. This has led to a vast improvement in the recovery rate of athletes with ligament injuries.
Mild to moderate knee injuries can be treated at home without the need for surgery. Using NSAIDs like ibuprofen will help relieve any discomfort because of pain and reduce swelling. Using the RICE method of treating mild or moderate injuries will help speed the healing. RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Simply put, rest your injured knee, ice it for 20 minutes every four hours to help reduce swelling, wrap it in an Ace bandage, and raise your knee while sitting.
Severe knee injuries are usually treated with reconstructive surgery, where the orthopedic surgeon patches the torn ACL or PCL with ligaments harvested from cadavers or other parts of your body.
2. Pediatric Care – Pediatric orthopedic surgeons specialize in treating musculoskeletal problems as they occur in toddlers and children. These include deformities of the spine such as scoliosis, or problems with the limbs, such as clubfoot or a difference in the length of the legs or arms.
These specialized orthopedic surgeons don’t just deal with birth defects or growth problems. They also work with broken bones. When a child breaks an arm or a leg, it’s an orthopedic surgeon that is there to ensure that the bone heals correctly. That’s because a growing child must be treated differently than an adult who might have the same break.
In extreme cases of bone tumors or carcinomas, it is an orthopedic oncologist who will determine the best course of action. Using a medical-surgical team approach, they will ensure that the child receives the best level of patient care possible. Treatments include removal of the tumor, if possible, to chemotherapy and even amputation of the affected limb.
3. The Elderly – For the growing elderly population, changes to the musculoskeletal system are inevitable. These disorders include arthritis, fragility, and degeneration, to name a few. As the life expectancy of humans grows longer, the incident rate of these disorders grows.
Additionally, older people have come to expect a higher quality of life as they age.
Older people must be treated carefully because of the wide range of possible variables in their health. A geriatric orthopedic surgeon must be able to take these differences into consideration when treating them. For healthier older patients, multiple elective procedures are possible, including total hip arthroplasty, total knee arthroplasty, and even spinal fusion surgery.
Other common maladies that a geriatric orthopedic surgeon can treat are complications due to osteoporosis and low bone mass. A common complication among the elderly is a hip fracture caused by falls. Orthopedic surgeons can work with a patient suffering from osteoporosis to help them regain bone mass to lower their risk of fragility fractures.
Orthopedic surgeons are a highly specialized segment of the medical profession who perform extremely vital services for all age segments of the population. No matter what phase of life you are in, you may find yourself needing to consult one. Thankfully, with their years of education and access to peer related information, you can be assured that you will receive the best treatments possible.