May 15, 2014
Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.
Orthopaedic surgeons specialise in caring for the musculoskeletal system. They treat patients who have problems with their joints, bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments. Individuals could suffer limited mobility or loss of range of motion due to accidents, sports injuries and degenerative diseases that attack the musculoskeletal system. Orthopaedic surgeons treat both, acute as well as chronic pain and injuries from broken bones, ruptured disks and torn ligaments to lower back pain and arthritis. These professionals also treat some types of congenital diseases such as club foot and muscular dystrophy.
Most times, these diseases or injuries are minor enough to be treated using non-invasive therapy and treatments. However, individual suffering, severe injuries or fighting a major disease, usually require surgery to treat the problem.
For an orthopaedic surgeon, each day’s duties are determined by the needs of their patients. As an orthopaedic surgeon, you would be responsible for diagnosing and evaluating the patients’ injuries or diseases through various diagnostic testing techniques such as X-rays to confirm a fractured or broken bone or blood tests to check for rheumatoid arthritis.
Despite being licensed surgeons, many orthopaedic surgeons will first recommend and implement non-invasive treatments before resorting to surgery to treat a problem. Statistics show that as much as 50% of an orthopaedic surgeon’s practice is non-surgical. Depending on the injury, they may recommend rehabilitative exercises, prescribe supplements and medications to strengthen joints and minimise pain or cast and splint limbs to stabilise a joint. When necessary, surgical procedures could include repairing broken bones, reattaching tendons and ligaments, or performing joint or hip replacements, among other specialised procedures.
Orthopaedic surgeons undergo several years of rigorous education and training before they can begin operating on patients.
The typical educational path for an orthopaedic surgeon will include:
-Four years of undergraduate study culminating in a Bachelor’s Degree, usually in biology, chemistry or another field of science.
-Four years of medical school training, which includes taking advanced courses in anatomy and physiology, biochemistry and pharmacology. Participation in clinical rotations introduces future surgeons to various specialties in medicine, including surgery.
-After medical school, orthopaedic surgeons undergo five years of Residency training, which is the longest training program of any medical field. The first year of residency training is usually spent in general surgery and the next four years in orthopaedic surgery. Residents start out observing licensed surgeons and gradually become more involved in surgical procedures under supervision.
Orthopaedic surgeons who wish to specialise in a surgical sub-specialty, will have to undergo further training in a fellowship program after completing their residency. These fellowships can last one to two years depending upon the specialty and research requirements.
As the population continues to grow and age, the demand for orthopaedic surgeons will grow as well, creating an exceptionally fast growth rate in this specialty. For example, as more elderly people develop rheumatoid arthritis, there will be a higher need for orthopaedic specialists to treat them.