What is an Orthopedic Surgeon?

An orthopedic surgeon is a doctor that specializes in orthopedics, the medical field devoted to the treatment of the musculoskeletal system. Your musculoskeletal system includes bones, joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles. 

Orthopedic surgeons are qualified to diagnose and treat musculoskeletal issues and joint pain using a number of different techniques, one of which is surgery.

In Canada, there are on average between four and five orthopedic surgeons per 100,000 population. 

What does an orthopedic surgeon do?

two medical professionals examining hand x-ray

Orthopedic surgery covers a wide variety of injuries and ailments of the musculoskeletal system. An orthopedic surgeon typically specializes in another field within orthopedics such as joint replacement surgery, sports medicine, hand surgery, or foot and ankle surgery.

Regardless of an orthopedic surgeon’s specialty, most people will typically only see one after getting a referral from their primary care doctor. 

While surgery is a treatment they are well-qualified to perform, many orthopedic surgeons treat musculoskeletal problems in as holistic a manner as possible, and only perform surgery as a last resort. 

The aim is to provide the best possible treatment with the least invasive approach. ,  Besides the initial diagnosis and treatment, they will usually also assist with rehabilitation or physical therapy, helping you develop and implement the long-term strategies you need to stay healthy. 

What kind of education do orthopedic doctors have?

surgeons performing procedure with surgical instruments in foreground

We’ve all heard that doctors have to spend many years in school, and it’s true. Because they are specialists, an orthopedic surgeon will often be in school for about 13 years. 

This includes their time getting a Bachelor’s degree, completing medical school, spending five years doing a residency at a major institution, as well as spending a year developing their medical specialty within the orthopedics field. 

In the United States, to be recognized by the overseeing body (the American Board of Orthopedic Surgery), these specialists must work in the field for a full two years after completing their five-year residency and then pass a test. In Canada, the requirements are similar, but the  overseeing bodies are the Medical Council of Canada and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.

You may notice a difference in spelling, with the North American spelling orthopedics, compared to the British version of orthopaedics.

When should someone see an orthopedic surgeon?

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, we recommend you consult with our surgical team: 

  • Redness around joints 
  • Locking joints
  • Joint pain
  • Limited joint mobility 
  • Sports injury 
  • Pain preventing you from comfortably going about your everyday life

Read more about When to See an Orthopedic Surgeon here.  

You would want to see an orthopedic surgeon if you have experienced a serious injury that results in broken bones that can’t be healed with a cast, if you’ve torn ligaments or tendons, or if you have significant loss of range of motion or long-term pain in your joints, muscles or bones. 

What kind of surgeries do orthopedic surgeons do?

Orthopedic surgeons are capable of fixing the most common fractures (broken wrists and ankles). They use a treatment called internal fixation, where plates and screws are inserted to realign the broken bones. 

Orthopedic surgeons also perform more specialized surgeries depending on their training and expertise. Hip and knee joint replacement surgery provides reliable relief of joint pain caused by worn cartilage. Soft tissue injuries, such as ligament or tendon tears, can be treated surgically by either repairing the soft tissue or replacing it with a graft.

Spine surgery is performed by specially-trained orthopedic surgeons. Spinal injuries and degenerative conditions can be treated with spinal fusion, where screws and rods are inserted into the bones of the spine to stabilize and realign it.

Do you need help from an orthopedic surgeon?

For hip and knee pain that requires help from an orthopedic surgeon, Montreal residents often trust the personalized and expert care of Ortho Westmount. The experts treat a number of orthopedic injuries and conditions, and may be able to help you. Get in touch with us today.