What is Orthopedics?

Orthopedic surgery, or orthopedics, deals with conditions involving the musculoskeletal system. Orthopedic surgeons use both surgical and nonsurgical means to treat musculoskeletal trauma, sports injuries, degenerative diseases, infections, tumors, and congenital disorders.

The roots of orthopedic surgery are closely linked to the treatment of pediatric skeletal deformities. The word "orthopedics" is derived from the Greek words orthos ("correct", "straight") and paideion ("child") and was first used in 1741. The correction of spinal and bone deformities became the cornerstone of orthopedic practice.

Before World War I, orthopedics primarily treated chronic deformities such as tuberculous joints, crooked spines, and poliomyelitis. Early on, orthopedic surgeons were not always associated with surgery as many of their treatments were mechanical treatments, such as traction, splints, braces, and plaster casts. The physicians were known as “strap and buckle doctors." One thought leader in our community was Arthur Gillette, who in 1915 recognized that the best orthopedic results stemmed from operation followed by mechanical treatment.

During World War II, the orthopedic surgeons provided care to soldiers with internal fixations of fractures. Since World War II, orthopedics has progressed to total joint replacements, minimally invasive surgeries using the arthroscope, and treatment of soft tissue problems of the extremities, especially hand and sports injuries.