What is Orthopaedic Surgery?

The word Orthopaedic is derived from the Greek words orthos, meaning “straight” and paidos, meaning “child”. Quite literally, the early use of the word applied to the practice of fixing deformity in children including scoliosis, club feet, torticollis and post-traumatic limb deformity. Therefore, early orthopaedists exclusively treated children.

Orthopaedics today has a much broader application. Orthopaedics (or Orthopaedics Surgery) focuses on the diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation and prevention of diseases of the musculoskeletal system including those of bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, tendons and nerves. We employ medical, physical rehabilitation and surgery to restore normal function. Our patients are not exclusively treated surgically as up to half of an Orthopaedic Surgeon’s practice may be dedicated to non-operative management.

Some of the typical diseases and conditions treated by Orthopaedic Surgeons include:

  • fractures and dislocations
  • torn ligaments, sprains and strains
  • tendon injuries, injured muscles and bursitis
  • arthritis in the knee or hip requiring joint replacement
  • arthritis and injuries in the shoulder and elbow
  • herniated discs in the spine, sciatica, scoliosis
  • bunions, hammer toes, flat feet and arthritis in the ankle
  • osteoporosis
  • muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy and childhood musculoskeletal conditions
  • bone and soft tissue tumours

The majority of Orthopaedic Surgery is dedicated to maintaining or restoring function, mobility and quality of life. Operations such as hip and knee replacement have been shown to be the most beneficial interventions in medicine to improve quality of life and productivity in society. For this reason, hip and knee replacement are the most common operations undertaken by many orthopaedic surgeons.

Research in Orthopaedic surgery is broad and diverse. It covers areas such as tissue engineering (bone, cartilage, ligaments and tendons), computer and image guided surgery and robotics, biomechanics, material engineering of hip and knee implants, clinical research and surgical education to name a few.

Orthopaedic Surgery trainees are highly selected to be amongst best the profession has to offer. They not only learn how to operate but how to think. Trainees have to love variety as every operation is different. Trainees have to learn to design operations and predict surgical results, and not everyone can do this, so the trainee selection process is arduous; both academic and practical. After fulfilling the training requirements come the examinations in Orthopaedic Surgery set by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. It is rigorous and fair. Only then can the trainee can call him or herself an Orthopaedic Surgeon.

A career in Orthopaedic Surgery is rewarding and gratifying, with a high level of job satisfaction.