1. What is the role of an ORTHOPAEDIC SURGEON in Singapore?
Orthopaedic surgeons are licensed medical professionals who are trained in the preservation, investigation, and rehabilitation of the form and function of the extremities, spine, and associated structures through medical, surgical, and physical interventions. With the musculoskeletal system as their focus of treatment, in simple terms, orthopaedic surgeons specialise in taking care of the bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, tendons, and nerves.
The inherent complexity of having a practice in general orthopaedics lies in the fact that there are 206 bones in the human body. Due to improvements in the field; ever-changing devices, supplies, and instrumentation; and the resultant need for individualized care, surgeons are becoming increasingly specialized. Hence, orthopaedic surgery can be narrowed further into different subspecialties. These include:
- Adult Reconstructive Orthopaedics
This is a subspeciality that involves an in-depth study, prevention, and reconstructive treatment of musculoskeletal disorders, diseases, and sequelae of injuries. It includes the care of arthritis and related disorders in different anatomic regions such as the hip, knee, shoulder, elbow, ankle or foot.
- Adult Foot And Ankle Orthopaedics
This is a subspecialty of orthopaedics and podiatry that involves the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disorders of the foot and ankle. They treat anywhere from bunions to ankle arthritis. They provide surgical treatments like total ankle replacements or ligament reconstruction.
- Hand Surgery
This is a medical speciality that deals with the problems which not only concerns the hands but also the wrist, forearm and shoulder. Hand surgeons are also experts in the diagnosis and caring for shoulder and elbow problems. Interventions may or may not include surgery. These practitioners may be orthopaedic, plastic, or general surgeons who have additional training in hand surgery and have undergone a rigorous certifying examination.
- Musculoskeletal Oncology
This is also referred to as orthopaedic oncology, and it involves the diagnosis and treatment of benign and malignant tumours as well as other abnormal lesions of the musculoskeletal system. Bone cancers and soft tissue sarcomas require a multidisciplinary approach to diagnose and treat. Therefore, the goal of intervention for orthopaedic oncologists is to give the patients a good chance of survival, improve functional outcomes, and enhance their quality of life.
- Orthopaedic Sports Medicine
While sports is part of a healthy and active lifestyle, it also comes with several hazards. Sprains, broken bones, and a variety of joint injuries are common both in sports and exercise-related activities. These surgeons specialise in the principles and techniques of rehabilitative athletic equipment and orthotic devices which enables them to prevent and manage athletic injuries. They are also proficient in areas like conditioning, training and fitness, athletic performance, as well as the impact of dietary supplements, pharmaceuticals, and nutrition on health and performance. They also coordinate within a team setting by tapping other healthcare professionals for a well-rounded approach to treatment and rehabilitation.
- Orthopaedic Spine Surgery
The spinal column is the centre of our skeletal system and it also serves as a protective conduit for major nerves. Injuries to the spine can have far-reaching effects such as chronic pain and impaired or lost mobility. Orthopaedic spine surgeons specialise in the diagnosis and treatment of spinal diseases and conditions. They also provide non-operative and surgical treatment to patients of all ages. Some specialists focus on certain spinal problems such as degenerative disorders, scoliosis, tumours, or a particular region of the spine (e.g. neck/cervical, back/lower back). After treatment, the patient will remain under the direct supervision of the spine surgeon. They follow the progress of the patient through physical therapy until they are fully rehabilitated.
- Orthopaedic Trauma
Accidents, disasters, and acts of violence can create serious injuries to the musculoskeletal system, and there are immediate interventions that can make a difference in a patient’s recovery. In emergency situations, orthopaedic trauma surgeons act swiftly to repair broken bones and torn ligaments to avert long-term damage. This may require bone grafting or internal fixation of screws, plates, or bone nails to stabilize fractures. In addition to this, orthopaedic trauma specialists also provide long-term care for patients as they rehabilitate from injuries or surgery.
- Pediatric Orthopaedics
Pediatric orthopaedic surgeons deal with a broad range of musculoskeletal conditions in children and adolescents. These include congenital deformities and cerebral palsy, as well as pediatric fractures, sports injuries and mobility-limiting foot and ankle conditions. Since a child’s body is smaller and less robust, interventions require a certain level of surgical skill.
2. What is the difference between an orthopaedic surgeon and a specialist?
This can be a common question because with a fine line defining these practices, it is a question as to whom the right practitioner to approach when you’re faced with a musculoskeletal issue.
Non-surgical orthopaedists or specialists can be a good starting point for patients without a clear diagnosis. The reason is that several orthopaedic conditions can be treated effectively even without surgery. However, if surgery becomes necessary, orthopaedists (or orthopaedic specialists) can refer patients to orthopaedic surgeons, or include them in the patient’s plan of care.
Orthopaedic specialists rely on non-surgical techniques, minimally invasive procedures, or computer-assisted treatments to harvest and grow cells for cartilage repair. Orthopaedic surgeons, on the other hand, can do all that on top of their qualification to operate, but it doesn’t always mean that they will. Their approach will always depend on individual differences.
We may often generalise orthopaedic doctors as orthopaedic surgeons. This is expected since orthopaedic surgeries are the common medical procedures that people encounter. It’s important to point out that orthopaedic surgeons are orthopaedic specialists, not all orthopaedic specialists are orthopaedic surgeons. It’s just like saying that not all writers are novelists, screenwriters, or comic writers; they all have their own forte.
3. Why is it beneficial for you to approach an orthopaedic subspecialist?
Approaching an orthopaedist who subspecialises in treating a certain body part or condition is a wise choice if you want to get a specific problem fixed. You can expect that they have a wealth of experience and knowledge in their area of expertise. The practice has been refined after it has undergone notable improvements in techniques and equipment, such as microsurgery and joint replacements. This is also particularly beneficial when complex and risky cases are at stake. Subspecialisation is a critical aspect especially when surgery is involved.
Subspecialists are also likely to be engaged in research that seeks ways to optimise existing treatments or even develop different approaches. With that said, they have robust resources at their disposal which is helpful especially when an orthopaedic problem comes with unique presentations.
4. What to look for in an orthopaedic surgeon?
Besides the necessary board-certified training and degrees, choose an orthopaedist who has completed an accredited fellowship in a subspeciality related to your condition or suspected case. A fellowship is a period of training following residency. It helps physicians develop their subspeciality and become master practitioners within a niche area of medicine. For example, an orthopaedic doctor who completes a fellowship in complex surgeries in the hip and knee would have the expertise to be considered an expert in this aspect. It means that these practitioners have an added level of insight, experience, and expertise which would be to your comfort and safety later on.
Accreditation information, including fellowships, are usually found on a physician’s official online profile. If not, you can always ask for it during an in-person consultation.
5. When is it necessary to approach an orthopaedic surgeon?
- you can’t move as much as you used to (reduced range of motion)
- you feel wobbly when you walk or stand
- you have a hard time doing everyday activities
For musculoskeletal injuries and other conditions, orthopaedic surgeons are the right professionals to provide you with the treatment plan that suits your individual needs. Yes, there is help available for different orthopaedic cases; it’s just a matter of seeking the right doctors who specialise on it.
If you’re looking for an orthopaedic surgeon in Singapore who specialises in sports injuries and joint replacements, specifically to the hip and knee, you may discuss your concerns to Harvard-fellowship trained Dr Andrew Quoc Dutton today.