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What is an Orthopedic Surgeon?

When you have pain so significant that you can no longer meet your responsibilities or enjoy everyday life, your physician may refer you to an orthopedic surgeon. On a broad level, doctors in this specialty help to restore movement and motion. From traumatic injuries resulting in partial paralysis to scoliosis and other musculoskeletal conditions, working with an orthopedic surgeon can improve your quality of life.


Understanding This Medical Specialty

“What is an orthopedic surgeon?” is a common question asked by patients. Orthopedic surgeons are devoted to the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of disorders of the bones, joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles. Some orthopedists are generalists, while others specialize in certain areas of the body, such as: Hip, shoulder and knee.

Orthopedics is most concerned with improving quality of life, and surgeons treat mobility issues and chronic pain by addressing the root cause. For example, if severe arthritis has caused some of a patient’s joints to wear away, an orthopedic surgeon would replace them.

Some orthopedic surgeons act as specialists while others are generalists. That means the specialists will typically focus on performing one type of surgery while generalists treat a broad range of orthopedic issues with surgery. Knee replacement is one specialty within this field. These doctors help patients with damaged or worn out knees who are experiencing pain even while resting. The surgeon would replace the knee and eliminate the pain.


Typical Patients of Orthopedic Surgeons

Anyone with a musculoskeletal injury or condition can benefit from working with an orthopedic surgeon. From the middle school athlete with a torn meniscus to the senior citizen patient immobilized by arthritis, orthopedic surgery can make a positive difference for patients of any age. While the most typical patients tend to be athletes or the elderly, orthopedic surgeons can truly treat anyone.


Body Parts and Conditions Treated by Orthopedic Surgeons

The number one reason that people visit their doctor each year is musculoskeletal pain, and doctors often refer these patients to an orthopedic surgeon for further consultation. The following are some of the most commonly treated areas for patients who visit an orthopedic surgeon:

  • Bone tumors: As mentioned above, orthopedic surgeons remove both benign and malignant tumors of the musculoskeletal system.
  • Broken bones: Obtaining the proper treatment for broken bones from the start can expedite the healing process.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome: This involves repairing the compressed nerves in the wrist that sustained damage due to repetitive motions.
  • Foot pain or deformity: Certain medical conditions such as diabetic neuropathy can cause chronic foot pain while deformity can occur due to hereditary conditions or footwear choices.
  • Joint pain and joint replacement: Whether caused by arthritis or not, joint pain can really slow people down. Joint replacement surgery may be the answer when it becomes severe enough.
  • Hand pain: Chronic pain in the muscles, tendons, or ligaments in the hands can make it impossible to complete even simple tasks like tying your shoes.
  • Limb lengthening: A baby born with one leg shorter than the other or an adult who develops this problem due to illness or injury could be a good candidate for orthopedic surgery.
  • Spine problems: This could range from severe spinal problems causing paralysis to chronic pain somewhere along the spinal column.

The above represents just a small sampling of areas treated by orthopedic surgeons. Please don’t hesitate to reach out for help even if you don’t see your specific issue listed.


Education and Training Required

Orthopedic surgeons complete four years of medical school and a minimum five years of residency to prepare for the job. A specialty-focused fellowship of one to two years is also common. To distinguish themselves as a master in orthopedic surgery, some doctors in this specialty choose to pursue board certification. This requires meeting all the following criteria:

  • Graduating from an osteopathic school of medicine
  • Having a valid medical license to practice medicine
  • Completion of a residency and accredited internship in orthopedic surgery

Upon meeting eligibility requirements, applicants pass both an oral and written exam to receive board certification from the American Board of Physician Specialties. The certification then remains valid for eight years.


Contact Us to Learn More About Orthopedic Surgery

We welcome your inquiries about orthopedic surgery or any of our surgeons here at Prime. Please contact us today at 828-394-6702,, or ask your doctor for a consultation referral.


At Prime Surgical Suites, we provide state-of-the-art, cost-effective musculoskeletal surgical care in a convenient and comfortable outpatient setting for patients of all ages. Located in RiverCrest Medical Park, we are the region's first outpatient center focused exclusively on orthopedics. Our physician-led center will help restore your active lifestyle and well-being with compassion and orthopedic excellence.