The orthopedic surgeon is a physician specialized in orthopedic surgery, a surgical branch devoted to the health of the locomotor system (or musculoskeletal system).
They deal with the treatment of degenerative, inflammatory, arthritic, and traumatic pathologies, usually resulting from sports injuries, road accidents, domestic or work-related incidents, or cut wounds involving the limbs.
Problems may affect bones, cartilaginous structures, or joints, and the surgeon intervenes to resolve or improve symptoms caused by these conditions.
The primary objective is to make an accurate diagnosis of the patient, implement treatment, usually conservatively initially, and if necessary, proceed with surgical intervention to restore motor function.
Orthopedic surgeons can further specialize in specific areas of their field, such as hip and knee orthopedics, spinal orthopedics, or elbow and shoulder orthopedics.
What Does an Orthopedic Surgeon Do?
The specialization of an orthopedic surgeon involves surgery on specific anatomical districts of the musculoskeletal system.
Contrary to the past, their patients can be of any age.
The role of the orthopedic surgeon originated as a specialist in the care and correction, through conservative or surgical therapies, of children with spinal and limb deformities.
Hence the name composed of the ancient Greek words “orthos” and “pais,” meaning “straight, to straighten” and “child,” respectively.
The Expertise of an Orthopedic Surgeon
The skills of the orthopedic surgeon include a deep and detailed knowledge of:
- The anatomy and physiology of bones, cartilages, joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
- Injuries and diseases affecting the locomotor system.
- Diagnostic investigation methods.
- Conservative and/or surgical treatments.
- The rehabilitation process useful for recovery after treatment or surgery.
- The prevention of disorders that may affect the locomotor system.
The orthopedic surgeon takes personal responsibility for the diagnosis and its therapy.
What Injuries or Conditions Does an Orthopedic Surgeon Treat?
Orthopedic surgeons deal with and treat:
- Bone fractures: compound and simple, stable and unstable, single and multifragmentary, microfractures.
- Sprains and dislocations: typically involving the knee and ankle for sprains, and the shoulder, hip, and elbow for dislocations.
- Bursitis, inflammation of a synovial bursa, small sacs filled with fluid found at strategic points in the body acting as anti-friction cushions.
- Tendinopathies, including tendonitis, tendinosis, enthesopathy, and episodes of tendon laceration.
- Muscle injuries, such as contraction, strain, and tear.
- Spinal deformities, such as scoliosis, hyperkyphosis, and hyperlordosis, as well as sciatica, lower back pain, and vertebral fractures.
- Limb deformities: related to valgus (e.g., knock-knee) and varus (e.g., bow-legged) phenomena, flat feet, or lower limb length discrepancy.
- Nerve compression syndromes, e.g., carpal or tarsal tunnel syndrome, and ulnar nerve compression.
- Discopathies, diseases of intervertebral discs, such as disc herniation.
- Rheumatic arthritis forms, e.g., rheumatoid arthritis.
- Osteoarthritis, a progressive degeneration of cartilage affecting the knee, hip, hands, and shoulder.
- Metabolic bone diseases, e.g., osteoporosis.
- Bone tumors, benign or malignant.
Specifically, inflammatory, degenerative, and traumatic pathologies result in various joint lesions, such as those affecting the:
- Foot: metatarsalgia, bunion, rigid big toe, high arches, flat feet, and hammer toes.
- Hand: scaphoid bone fracture, carpal tunnel lesion, thumb arthritis, and trigger finger.
- Knee, meniscus, and ligaments, or knee osteoarthritis.
- Shoulder (e.g., rotator cuff injuries).
- Hip (e.g., hip osteoarthritis).
What Are the Most Common Procedures Used by an Orthopedic Surgeon?
The most common procedures used by orthopedic surgeons are minimally invasive surgery, prosthetic surgery, and percutaneous surgery.
Arthroscopic Minimally Invasive Surgery
This surgical technique, assisted by optical fibers and video, allows intervention on damaged joints without making a large incision, as in open surgeries.
Arthroscopic surgery can be performed on all joints but is particularly useful in the knee and shoulder.
Small incisions are made through which instruments are inserted to visualize the inside of the joint and operate on damaged structures.
Prosthetic surgery involves replacing joints of the hip and knee with prostheses, effectively treating degenerative joint pathologies.
Thanks to the evolution of techniques and materials, prosthetic implantation provides lasting results, alleviating pain and restoring normal mobility and functionality to the joint, enabling a return to sports and normal life.
Prosthetic surgery can also employ medical and surgical strategies that make it less invasive than traditional prosthetic surgery.
Percutaneous Minimally Invasive Surgery
For interventions related to the foot, such as correcting deformities caused by bunions.
It is possible to address bunions with minimally invasive techniques, shaping the foot through small pinpoint incisions that correct the defect, allowing a return to daily habits and walking without pain.
Your Well-being Comes First
Dr. Vanni Strigelli, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in prosthetic surgery of the hip, knee, and bunion correction, practices his profession by defining his field as “well-being surgery,” a positive surgery that improves the quality of life for patients.