Orthopaedic surgeons are involved in all aspects of health care pertaining to the musculoskeletal system. They use medical, physical, and rehabilitative methods as well as surgery.
What’s this career about?
Back pain, sports injuries, arthritic hips and knees, and stiff neck muscles are just a few of the musculoskeletal conditions that have an enormous impact on Indians and the entire healthcare system. For the proper diagnosis and most appropriate treatment options for musculoskeletal conditions, it is important to consult an orthopaedic surgeon.
These surgeons are specially trained in evaluating, preserving and restoring the structure and function of the spine and its extremities. They take care of bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles and nerves — everything that allows you to move, work and be active.
Following the assessment of a patient’s condition, an orthopaedic surgeon may recommend surgery or a non-surgical treatment, such as the external fixation to a limb of a mechanical device or apparatus. Minor surgeries are usually done on an outpatient basis and could range from casting bones to arthroscopic surgery. Major surgeries range from joint replacements and repairing shattered bones to doing spine surgery.
Orthopaedic surgeons spend around 40% of their time operating. In addition, these professionals are required to spend several hours doing office visits where they remove casts, fit patients for braces, consult with new patients and follow up sessions with current patients.
The role of the orthopaedic surgeon is a collaborative one, requiring reliance on and consultation with other health care professionals. The radiologist’s expertise in the areas of imaging techniques such as X-ray, radiography, ultrasound, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) plays a key support role in orthopaedics. The physical therapist and physiotherapist, in particular, though not directly involved with the orthopaedic procedure, do require an understanding of both pre- and post- operative therapies to achieve the desired patient outcomes of cessation of pain and restored mobility. These medical professionals are among the orthopaedic surgeon’s crucial partners.
Typical areas of specialization for orthopaedic surgeons are joint reconstruction; paediatric orthopaedics; hand, spine and foot surgery and sports medicine. This is a specialty where it is crucial to always be up to date with the latest surgical techniques and attending conferences and seminars is an essential part of this profession.
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Dr Vibha Gupta, a feature writer, is a Ph.D. in Mathematics from IIT Roorkee. Her book Careers: A Pathfinder and articles in various publications are an attempt to guide students in choosing a career according to their natural strengths, talents and skills.