Orthopedic surgeons, or orthopedists, have extensive training in the surgical and non-surgical treatment of injuries to our bones, tendons and ligaments, working to restore function and mobility.

Watch an Overview of Orthopedic Surgery

About Orthopedic Surgery

Orthopedic surgery is a medical specialty that provides treatment for conditions affecting the musculoskeletal system, which includes your bones, muscles, joints, ligaments, tendons, and related structures. Despite the fact that "surgery" is included in the name of the specialty, not all treatment options from an orthopedist are surgical in nature. A patient’s specific condition or injury will dictate the type of treatment the orthopedic surgeon will provide, and surgery is typically seen as a last resort when other methods of treatment have been ineffective or ruled out.

Although orthopedic surgeons are trained to provide treatments to patients, they are often involved in the diagnosis and management of injuries or conditions as well. Because orthopedic procedures can be physically exhausting for the patient, the surgeon must craft a treatment plan that will take these and other factors into account. When creating a personalized treatment plan the surgeon will weigh any side effects and risks, as well as the length of time it will take for the patient to rehabilitate and make a full recovery. These and other factors are discussed with the patient in order to create a plan that will best suit the patient’s specific needs. Orthopedic surgeons also educate patients with regard to preventive measures that may help to avoid further injuries and complications or exacerbation of previous injuries.

Orthopedic surgeons are trained to provide care for a very wide range of injuries or disorders. These may include sports-related injuries, limb deformities, spine disorders, cerebral palsy, arm and hand disorders, tumors of the musculoskeletal system and a host of congenital disorders, among many others. Orthopedic surgeons perform a wide variety of treatment procedures, including anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction or surgery, rotator cuff reparation or surgery, carpal tunnel release procedures, hip replacement surgery, support implant removal or shoulder and knee arthroscopy procedures, and setting broken bones, among others.

Orthopedic Surgery Education & Training

Training to become an orthopedist requires completion of a four year bachelor’s degree before earning a four year MD or DO medical degree from an accredited medical school. Following graduation from medical school, the physician must enroll in a one year internship at a hospital. Following completion of the internship, the physician must enroll in a five year residency program in orthopedic surgery.

The orthopedic residency program will allow the physician to become acquainted with the general skills and techniques of orthopedics while under the supervision of experienced, licensed orthopedists. Throughout residency training, these physicians may gain experience caring for patients in a variety of areas, including hand surgery, spine surgery, arthroplasty and reconstructive orthopedics, sports medicine, pediatric orthopedics, foot and ankle orthopedics, and musculoskeletal trauma. Orthopedic residents are exposed to surgical and non-surgical treatment techniques which are employed in both inpatient and outpatient care settings, and may also have the opportunity to conduct research in a certain area of orthopedics.

After completing residency training, the orthopedist is able to take the requisite licensure examinations and begin practicing. Many orthopedists choose to seek board certification from the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery. If the orthopedist chooses to subspecialize in a particular area of orthopedics, they must enroll in a one year fellowship. During a fellowship, the orthopedist has the opportunity to subspecialize in areas such as pediatric orthopedics, musculoskeletal oncology or sports medicine, among others.