Orthopedic Surgery Explained

The Surgical Specialty of Orthopedics

operating room image
In the Operating Room. Image: Getty

Definition: Orthopedics is the branch of surgery that involves the skeletal system, including the repair of joints, bones, ligaments and tendons. Orthopedic surgeons may also perform surgery on the feet, hands and spine, depending on the nature of their practice.  

You may hear orthopedics referred to as "ortho" in the hospital. 

Orthopedic Surgery

Orthopedic surgery primarily involves the skeletal system, but can take a wide variety of forms.

 Orthopedics can include the surgical treatment of hands, feet, joints, the repair of traumatic injuries including broken bones and even the treatment of cancer that is in the bones.  Surgery performed on the spine is often done by orthopedic surgeons, but is also performed by brain surgeons. The same is true of foot surgery, which is done by both orthopedic surgeons and podiatrists

Orthopedic surgeons may specialize in a small number of procedures, such as hip and knee replacements, or may enjoy a more varied practice that includes other types of procedures. Most orthopedic surgeons operate exclusively on adults, as pediatric orthopedics requires further training specifically in the treatment of children and adolescents.

Training of Orthopedic Surgeons

The orthopedic surgeon must first complete medical school, followed by a five year general surgery residency program. After completing training as a general surgeon, the physician then must complete additional years of specialty fellowship training in orthopedics, typically a minimum of two years.

 Additional years may be required for those wishing to further specialize, such as practicing pediatric orthopedic medicine.

Also Known As: ortho, bone surgery, joint surgery, foot surgery, hand surgery, spinal surgery, hip surgery, knee surgery, joint replacement, hip replacement, knee replacement

Alternate Spellings: orthopaedic, orthopaedics

Common Misspellings: orthopedicks, orthapedic, orthopeedic,

Examples: The patient was scheduled for orthopedic surgery after the pain in her hip became so severe that she had to have a hip replacement to treat her arthritis.

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