What Orthopedic Surgeons Do and How to Choose One
Orthopedic surgeons are medical specialists who focus on the surgical treatment of musculoskeletal injuries, diseases and disorders. Their interventions take place at the preoperative, operative and postoperative stages, and they assist in the diagnosis, treatment and aftercare of a wide range of medical conditions. Many orthopedic surgeons are also involved in research aimed at broadening scientific understanding of musculoskeletal conditions and improving the techniques used to treat them.
Conditions Treated by Orthopedic Surgeons
You may be referred to an orthopedic surgeon for the treatment of:
- Bone tumors
- Joint dislocations
- Damage to muscles, ligaments and tendons
- Cerebral palsy
- Herniated discs
- Fractures and sprains
- Cerebral palsy
- Disfiguring disorders, such as bow legs, bunions, hammertoes, knock knees and club foot
The medical procedures performed by orthopedic surgeons include:
- Arthroscopic surgery
- Foot and ankle surgery
- Spine surgery
- Reconstructive surgery
- Joint replacements
- Hand, shoulder and elbow surgery
Orthopedic surgeons also offer treatment for sports injuries, pediatric conditions, and postoperative rehabilitation.
Choosing an Orthopedic Surgeon
If you have an injury or illness requiring the help of an orthopedic surgeon, you should carefully research the professionals who specialize in the kind of treatment you need. First, you need to think about more than just the surgeon; you should also look into the facility where the surgeon practices. Find out what previous patients have to say about the care they received there, and inquire about the staff-to-patient ratio. Also, ask about the range of services the facility provides; if your surgery requires an extended period of convalescence, you’ll want to make sure that all the resources you may need will be available in house.
Experience is also a very important consideration. When it comes to surgery, you don’t want to take any chances. Stick to an orthopedic specialist who has a proven track record when it comes to treating the exact kind of injury you have. For example, if you have a herniated lumbar disc that requires surgery, make sure that the surgeon has successfully treated lumbar discs, as opposed to thoracic or cervical discs. Find out how many of these surgeries the doctor performs in a year and how many patients go on to make full and complete recoveries.
You should also find out all you can about how the doctor manages operative and postoperative complications. These are inevitable, and occur with significant frequency in all types of surgical procedures. Remember that incidences of operative and postoperative complications aren’t necessarily a reflection on the doctor’s skill level.
When it comes to major surgery, you shouldn’t confine yourself to your immediate local area in your search for a qualified orthopedic surgeon. Though it may cost more for you to travel to a doctor, it’s a good idea to do so if a uniquely qualified specialist is available to treat you. Cutting corners to save money isn’t a good idea when it comes to things like spinal surgery and reconstructive surgery. You’re much better off to invest a little more, but have a greater chance of enjoying a favorable outcome for your trouble.
While all surgeons are required to regularly upgrade their skills, you should check to make sure that the orthopedic surgeon you’re considered is well-versed in the most current treatment methods available. Modern medicine is advancing rapidly, and you want to be sure you’re getting cutting-edge care that draws on the very latest research and uses the most advanced available technologies.
Finally, while you can consult your medical insurance provider for referrals to orthopedic surgeons, you don’t have to go with a doctor they recommend. If you’re making a valid claim, your insurance company cannot penalize you for choosing a surgeon that was not on their list of approved professionals.