Pinpointing the exact role of an orthopedic surgeon is difficult, as they perform a variety of roles throughout the duration of their careers. They are involved in the diagnosis and treatment of patient’s suffering from problems with their muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, there are over 20,400 practicing orthopedic surgeons in the U.S.
Orthopedic surgeons are responsible for treating both acute and chronic pain and injuries. Chronic conditions are longstanding and invoke persistent pain, and is a prominent factor of conditions such as arthritis, sciatica and a vast number of other joint issues. These types of problems are usually the result of an acute injury; i.e. torsion injury of the knee or sporting injury to other parts of the anatomy. Other types of chronic conditions such as club foot or muscular dystrophy originate at birth.
Acute conditions are likely to require immediate attention from an orthopedic surgeon. The different types of acute injuries seen by orthopedic surgeons can vary from location to location. Regardless of locale, orthopedic surgeons also treat broken bones, torn ligaments and ruptured disks.
Specialists vs. Generalists
Approximately 69 percent of orthopedic surgeons consider themselves a general orthopedic surgeon who may have a focused area of care, whereas the remaining 31 percent consider themselves as specialists only, mainly focusing their attention on specific areas of the body. For example, while some practitioners are specialists in spinal disorders, others may direct more their attention to knee injuries. Furthermore, there are some orthopedic surgeons who specialize in broader areas such as pediatrics or sports medicine and all of their accompanying injuries and disorders.
Regardless of specialization, orthopedic surgeons must obtain a bachelor’s degree in medicine, graduate from medical school, complete a residency and obtain a medical license before they can practice in their state.
Orthopedic surgeons work in many different healthcare settings including hospitals and private practices. Within the hospital setting, orthopedic surgeons may work in different facets such as trauma care or as an in-house consultant who helps organize and implement emergency orthopedic care. In addition, a Denver orthopedic surgeon, like those from Steadman Hawkins Clinic Denver, will work closely with other healthcare professionals and often serve as consultants to organize and delivery of emergency orthopedic care.