In the aftermath of an accident, several health care professionals may help an injured person on the recovery path. Primary care physicians, neurologists, chiropractors, and physical therapists often contribute.
With many accident victims, an orthopedic doctor — often called an orthopedist — plays an essential role. Understanding an orthopedist’s training and expertise can help you make informed decisions if you confront an injury.
Orthopedists and orthopedic surgeons are medical doctors who specialize in treating the musculoskeletal system: bones, muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments. While every orthopedist trains in surgery, these specialists aim for non-invasive treatment whenever possible.
As their medical training progresses, the majority of orthopedists typically begin to focus on a few sub-specialties, such as sports medicine, spine surgery or adult reconstructive surgery.
The typical education path for an orthopedist comprises:
Beyond the training as medical students and at the onset of their careers, orthopedists must stay on top of treatment advances in their specialty. Continuing education for these specialists is a challenge; orthopedic care is a dynamic field, with innovations rolling out nearly every month.
Arthroscopic surgery is an essential skill for every orthopedist. In an arthroscopic procedure, an orthopedist makes a very short incision, typically no more than ¼ inch.
Into this slit goes the arthroscope, a tiny camera attached to a bundle of optical fibers. Linked to a video monitor, the arthroscope enables an orthopedist to view an injury with extraordinary clarity.
To treat an injury, orthopedists can make additional short incisions and take advantage of an array of specialized tools. Owing to the small incisions, arthroscopic surgery greatly reduces the risk of infections.
Better still, this minimally-invasive surgery technique enables far shorter recovery times than conventional surgery.
Orthopedists often diagnose and treat patients with injuries caused by auto collisions, the workplace, or slip-and-fall accidents from everyday activity.
Sports fans are familiar with the phrase “torn ACL.” The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of four fibrous connections between your femur — the thigh bone — and your tibia, often called the shin bone.
The ACL resides behind the patella, your kneecap. While common in sports, ACL injuries also happen with auto accidents.
Relatively mild ACL sprains resulting in knee pain may occur, but the more typical injury is a complete tear of the ligament. Women are slightly more prone to suffer this injury.
With nearly half of all ACL tears, the knee joint suffers additional injury. Damage to the meniscus, the cartilage pad between the two big leg bones, is common with an ACL injury.
The extent of injuries influences treatment options. With a partial ACL tear, physical therapy may promote healing and avoid the need for orthopedic surgery.
If a patient suffers a complete ACL tear and experiences knee instability, orthopedists typically recommend surgery.
ACL orthopaedic surgery involves removing a small portion of another healthy tendon and grafting this tissue into the knee. The tendons most often used for this procedure are the patellar tendon or a short section of the hamstring tendon from the knee’s inner side.
There is no cast after this surgery, but your orthopaedic surgeons often recommend a hinged protective brace. Patients typically need crutches for one to three weeks after the procedure. Rehabilitation with a physical therapist begins immediately, with full recovery ranging from two to nine months.
Two other knee ligaments may need orthopedic care. The posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) runs down the back of your knee.
Thicker and less prone to damage than the ACL, the PCL may suffer an injury if a knee hits the dashboard in a vehicle collision. When the PCL suffers a sprain or partial tear, your orthopedist will probably recommend a knee brace and several weeks of physical therapy.
What is an orthopedic doctor likely to advise for a complete PCL tear? For this case, arthroscopic surgery is the best option for patients aiming to return to an active life.
The medial collateral ligament (MCL), located on the inner knee, may also suffer injury if the joint strikes an auto dashboard. Surgery is rare for this injury, though your orthopedist may recommend physical therapy to speed recovery.
Without other knee issues, an MCL tear typically heals within two months.
Fractures of the patella, the protective kneecap bone, can happen with the heavy impact of a car collision or a high fall in the workplace. If X-rays reveal bone fragments, your orthopedic knee doctor will need to perform an arthroscopic procedure to clean out the area.
With or without surgery, a kneecap fracture usually requires a cast for four to six weeks. Physical therapy follows the cast’s removal, and moderate soreness is typical for several more months.
Knee injuries aren’t the only conditions that require orthopedic care. Persisting chronic pain in the back or neck, and hand injuries are among the many conditions that require an orthopedist for diagnosis and treatment.
In between most of the bones that comprise your spine are disks, tissue that serves as a cushion. Sudden compression, triggered by an auto accident, excessive lifting or a slip-and-fall accident, can lead to a herniated disk.
This injury occurs when the pliable tissue of a disk’s interior leaks through a crack in the tougher disk exterior. This injury nearly always occurs in either the lower back — the lumbar curve — or the neck.
In either area, symptoms include pain in the immediate area and a tingling sensation in your arms or legs. If these symptoms occur soon after an accident, seeing an orthopedic doctor is a wise move.
In most cases, the symptoms resolve with conservative treatments such as:
For the rare patients with persistent pain, an orthopedist may perform one of these surgical procedures:
Hand injuries are a frequent outcome in several types of accidents. In motor vehicle collisions, a hand may suffer injury from the steering wheel, dashboard or center pillar.
In a slip-and-fall accident, a person may extend their hand to lessen the impact. In the workplace, mishandling a heavy object can injure a worker’s hand. What is an orthopedic doctor likely to do when encountering these injuries?
Here are a few examples:
Accidents happen. When injuries occur, you deserve prompt treatment to speed your recovery. Whether you need an orthopedic knee doctor or another specialist, Injured Call Today is your free resource for quickly finding healthcare professionals in New York and New Jersey.
The board-certified orthopedic doctors listed on the Injured Call Today medical team include neurologists, chiropractors, podiatrists, pain management specialists, and more. Every listed doctor and clinic accepts workers’ compensation, no-fault, PIP (Personal Injury Protection), medical liens and other insurance plans.
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