Orthopedic Surgery

Orthopedic surgery may be an option when there is significant damage to bones, joints or ligaments. Surgeons at MaineHealth have extensive experience and expertise in treating orthopedic conditions. They can fix broken bones and replace hips, knees and other damaged joints.

What is orthopedic surgery?

Orthopedic surgery is a procedure performed by a medical specialist such as an orthopedist or orthopedic surgeon, who is trained to assess and treat problems that develop in the bones, joints, and ligaments of the human body.  Orthopedic surgeons manage special problems of the musculoskeletal system. This involves:

  • Diagnosis of your injury or disorder
  • Treatment with medication, exercise, surgery or other treatment plans
  • Rehabilitation by recommending exercises or physical therapy to restore movement, strength and function
  • Prevention with information and treatment plans to prevent injury or slow the progression of diseases.

While orthopedic surgeons are familiar with all aspects of the musculoskeletal system, many orthopedists specialize in certain areas, such as the foot and ankle, spine, hip or knee. They may also choose to focus on specific fields like pediatrics, trauma or sports medicine. Some orthopedic surgeons may specialize in several areas.

Orthopedic surgery types

  • Arthroscopy -- a procedure using special cameras and equipment to visualize, diagnose, and treat problems inside a joint.
  • Fusion -- a process by which bones are fused together with bone grafts and internal devices (such as metal rods) to heal into a single solid bone.
  • Internal Fixation -- a method to hold the broken pieces of bone in proper position with metal plates, pins, or screws while the bone is healing.
  • Joint Replacement (partial, total and revision) -- when an arthritic or damaged joint is removed and replaced with an artificial joint called a prosthesis.
  • Osteotomy -- the correction of bone deformity by cutting and repositioning the bone.
  • Soft tissue repair -- the mending of soft tissue, such as torn tendons or ligaments.

Talk to your surgeon about the procedure. Your surgeon will answer your questions.

Orthopedic surgery preparation

To prepare for orthopedic surgery, your surgeon will order a variety of tests. Some tests may include:

  • X-rays

  • Computed tomography (CT) scans

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

  • Myelograms

  • Diagnostic arthroplasty

  • Blood tests

The orthopedist will determine the history of the disorder and any treatments that were previously tried. A period of rest to the injured part may be recommended before surgery is undertaken.

Orthopedic surgery risks

As with any surgery, there are always potential risks and complications that could occur. Some of the risks of orthopedic surgery include:

  • Excessive bleeding

  • Infection

  • Allergic reaction to anesthesia

  • Inflammation at the site where foreign materials (pins, prostheses, or wires) are introduced

  • Damage to nerves or to the spinal cord

Talk to your doctor about risks specific to the kind of orthopedic surgery you are planning to have performed.

Orthopedic surgery recovery

Recovering from orthopedic surgery usually involves rehabilitation, which can require long periods of time. This can be physically and mentally difficult on the body. Orthopedic surgeons will work closely with physical therapists to ensure that patients receive treatment that will improve range of motion and return function to all affected body parts.