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What is an Orthopedic Surgeon?

Orthopedic Surgeon in Surgery

An orthopedic surgeon is a type of doctor that specializes in treating diseases and injuries of the bones, joints, ligaments, and tendons. Although they are often sought after for operations, orthopedic surgeons do more than just operate. They can set bones with casts, recommend conservative treatment, including prosthetics and physical therapy, and help patients prevent injuries.

Orthopedic Surgeon in Surgery

Orthopaedic vs. Orthopedic Spelling

One of the first sources of confusion about the specialty is the spelling. Some people spell the word ‘orthopaedic’ while others spell it ‘orthopedic’. Both are correct and are derived from Greek. Orthos means straight and paidion means child. This suggests that orthopedic surgery began by specializing in correcting injuries or malformation of bones in children.

A French professor, Nicholas Andry, coined the word orthopédie in 1741. The English translated orthopédie to Orthopædia, or orthopaedic. Orthopedic is the Americanized version of orthopaedic, although many physicians in the United States use both spellings interchangeably.

History of Orthopedic Surgery

Some historians trace the origins of orthopedic surgery all the way to primitive human ancestors. Historians found evidence that primitive humans set bones and tried to repair injuries. Historians then trace the practices to the Egyptians, then the Greeks, and then the Romans. The Greeks and the Romans shaped the practice into a more orderly, systematic form of medicine. They began studying anatomy and technique with more rigor than their predecessors.

Orthopedic Surgeon Training

In the US, orthopedic surgeons must first attend college and then medical school. Medical school takes 4 years to complete. After medical school, the new doctors attend residency. Residency programs train the new doctors in the specialty of their choosing under the guidance of more experienced doctors. Common specialties include family medicine, emergency medicine, pediatrics, etc. All doctors must attend residency in order to practice medicine, but the length of residencies differs by specialty. Orthopedic surgery is a competitive specialty with a residency that lasts 5 years. After they complete their residency, orthopedic surgeons must pass all licensing and board exams in order to practice as a surgeon. While surgeons can choose to practice directly out of residency, some may choose to complete a fellowship in order to learn even more about a specific area of interest in orthopedic surgery.

What to Look for in An Orthopedic Surgeon

If you have specific health concerns or complicated orthopedic history, you may want to choose an orthopedic surgeon who has completed a fellowship in that area.

While a good orthopedic surgeon is someone who is technically skilled, they should also know how to listen to patients. A surgeon should present the options to you, answer any questions you have, and guide you to the best solution based on your health goals.


An orthopedic surgeon is a specialized doctor who has gone through many years of training and certification levels to help patients manage issues with bones, joints, and connective tissue. While they are experts in surgical techniques, they do not always recommend surgery to all patients. Rather, they recommend conservative treatments, physical therapy, and help patients prevent injury and joint pain when appropriate. When you have a bad injury, or nonoperative treatments are not working, orthopedic surgeons have the skills necessary to help you. Talk to Dr. Morton about your orthopedic concerns today.

Meet Dr. Paul N. Morton, MD

Dr. Paul N. Morton, MD is a fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon in hip and knee surgery, specializing in robotic joint replacements, complex joint reconstruction, sports injuries, and trauma. Reach out to him to learn more about treatment options for your problem.

Written By: Dr. Paul N. Morton, MD


Post Published on June 22, 2020

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