Living With Rheumatoid Arthritis

No Bones About It: Orthopaedic Surgeons

Torn ligaments, bone tumours, cerebral palsy, fractures and rheumatoid arthritis. These are just some of the conditions that an orthopaedic surgeon treats, in a variety of ways, as is best suited to the individual patient.

An orthopaedic surgeon is a medical specialist who focuses on the proper diagnosis and surgical and non-surgical treatment and rehabilitation of disorders, diseases and injuries of the musculoskeletal system.  The musculoskeletal system is made up the body's joints, ligaments, muscles, nerves, tendons and bones.  The field of orthopaedics is broad.  Many orthopaedic surgeons specialise in a particular area such as the hand and elbow or ankle and foot.  They might also concentrate on a specific medical area like sports injuries, trauma or paediatrics. Orthopaedic surgeons treat patients of all ages (including newborns, athletes, children, middle-aged people and the elderly) with a variety of conditions from fractured bones to disease of the tendons.

Orthopaedic surgeons treat many different kinds of conditions, for instance scoliosis, bone tumours, cerebral palsy, club feet, sports injuries and torn ligaments.  It is important that patients and their families build relationships with their orthopaedic surgeon, in order to ensure that the surgeon has a clear picture of the patient's unique needs and preferences, and in order for the surgeon to ensure that the patient knows all the options available.  Many conditions can be controlled with medication, exercise or other rehabilitative therapies.  If necessary, surgery may be recommended if alternative treatments  are unsuccessful.   The surgeon is able to make the patient aware of the approach which will best suit that individual.   

Orthopaedic surgeons must be able to perform a variety of procedures.  These include a procedure to investigate and treat problems inside a joint (arthroscopy), fusion of broken bones, joint replacement and soft tissue repair. The surgeon will use his/ her knowledge of the individual patient's situation in order to suggest the procedure best-suited to that individual.  

When seeing the surgeon, it is best to be prepared for your consultation.  Expect the appointment to begin with a personal interview, physical examination and a review of previous tests or history.  The orthopaedic surgeon might also order further diagnostic tests such as x-rays or blood tests.  It is a good idea to write down any questions you have before the appointment.  Most orthopaedic conditions can be treated in more than one way, and a good surgeon will listen to you and will recommend treatments that are best suited to your unique set of symptoms and individual needs.