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A Quick Overview of Orthopedic Surgery Types

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Orthopedic surgery is a specialized field of medicine focusing on diagnosing, treating, preventing, and rehabilitating musculoskeletal disorders. These conditions may involve bones, joints, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and nerves. Orthopedic surgeons employ surgical and non-surgical means to treat various injuries and diseases. Below, we delve into the orthopedic surgery types that address various musculoskeletal issues.

Orthopedic Surgery Types

Joint Replacement Surgery

Total Joint Replacement

Total joint replacement is one of the most common types of orthopedic surgeries. This procedure involves replacing a damaged joint with a prosthetic one, typically made of metal, plastic, or ceramic. The most frequently replaced joints are the hips and knees, but shoulder, elbow, and ankle replacements are also performed. Patients who suffer from severe arthritis or joint trauma are primary candidates for this surgery.

Partial Joint Replacement

In partial joint replacement, only the damaged part of the joint is replaced. This is often an option for younger patients or those with less extensive joint damage. The benefits of partial joint replacement include a shorter recovery period and less postoperative pain.

Arthroscopic Surgery

Knee Arthroscopy

Knee arthroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure used to diagnose and treat problems inside the knee joint. Surgeons insert a small camera, called an arthroscope, into the knee joint through a small incision. This allows them to see the inside of the joint and perform necessary repairs, such as trimming a torn meniscus or reconstructing a damaged ligament.

Shoulder Arthroscopy

Like knee arthroscopy, shoulder arthroscopy is performed to diagnose and treat shoulder problems. This procedure is commonly used to repair rotator cuff tears, remove inflamed tissue, or fix dislocations. The minimally invasive nature of arthroscopy generally results in quicker recovery times and less postoperative discomfort compared to traditional open surgery.

Spinal Surgery

Spinal Fusion

Spinal fusion is a procedure that permanently connects two or more vertebrae in the spine, eliminating motion between them. This surgery is often recommended for patients with spinal instability, severe scoliosis, or chronic back pain that does not respond to conservative treatments. The goal of spinal fusion is to stabilize the spine and reduce pain.


A discectomy involves removing a herniated disc by pressing on a nerve root or the spinal cord. This procedure can be performed through open surgery or minimally invasive techniques. Discectomy is effective in relieving symptoms such as pain, numbness, and weakness caused by nerve compression.

Fracture Repair

Open Reduction and Internal Fixation (ORIF)

Open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF) is a surgical procedure used to fix severe bone fractures. During ORIF, the surgeon makes an incision to access the broken bone, repositions it into the correct alignment, and secures it with metal plates, screws, or rods. This method is often used for fractures that cannot be treated with casting or splinting alone.

External Fixation

External fixation involves stabilizing broken bones using an external frame. Pins or screws are inserted into the bone on both sides of the fracture and connected to a metal frame outside the body. This technique is particularly useful for fractures with extensive soft tissue damage or when immediate surgery is not advisable.

Hand and Wrist Surgery

Carpal Tunnel Release

Carpal tunnel release is performed to relieve pressure on the median nerve in the wrist, which causes carpal tunnel syndrome. The procedure involves cutting the ligament that forms the roof of the carpal tunnel, thereby enlarging the tunnel and reducing pressure on the nerve. This surgery can be done using an open or endoscopic technique.

Tendon Repair

Tendon repair surgery is necessary when a tendon is severely damaged or ruptured, often due to injury or overuse. The procedure involves stitching the torn ends of the tendon back together. Sometimes, a tendon graft may be required to replace severely damaged sections.

Foot and Ankle Surgery


A bunionectomy is a surgical procedure to remove a bunion, which is a bony bump that forms on the joint at the base of the big toe. The surgery involves removing the swollen tissue around the big toe joint, straightening the big toe by removing part of the bone, and realigning the bones to correct the deformity.

Ankle Arthroscopy

Ankle arthroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure used to diagnose and treat problems in the ankle joint. Surgeons use an arthroscope to visualize the inside of the ankle and perform necessary repairs, such as removing loose cartilage, repairing torn ligaments, or treating arthritis.

Pediatric Orthopedic Surgery

Growth Plate Surgery

Growth plate surgery is performed on children with fractures or growth plate injuries. The growth plate, or physis, is an area of developing tissue near the ends of long bones. Injuries to this area can affect bone growth. Surgical intervention may involve realigning the bone and stabilizing it with pins or screws to ensure proper healing and growth.

Scoliosis Surgery

Scoliosis surgery corrects abnormal curvature of the spine in children and adolescents. The most common procedure is spinal fusion, which involves fusing the affected vertebrae together to straighten the spine and prevent further curvature.

Sports Medicine Surgery

Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Reconstruction

ACL reconstruction is a common procedure for athletes who suffer from ACL tears. The surgery involves replacing the torn ligament with a graft, which can be taken from the patient’s own body (autograft) or a donor (allograft). The goal of ACL reconstruction is to restore stability to the knee and allow the patient to return to sports activities.

Meniscus Repair

Meniscus repair is performed to treat tears in the meniscus, the C-shaped cartilage in the knee that acts as a shock absorber. Depending on the location and severity of the tear, the surgeon may trim the damaged portion or stitch it back together. Preserving as much of the meniscus as possible is crucial for maintaining knee function and preventing arthritis.


What is the most common type of orthopedic surgery?

Total joint replacement, especially hip and knee replacements, are among the most common orthopedic surgeries. These procedures effectively relieve pain and improve function for patients with severe arthritis or joint damage.

How long does it take to recover from orthopedic surgery?

Recovery times vary depending on the type of surgery and the patient’s overall health. Minimally invasive procedures like arthroscopy typically have shorter recovery periods, while more extensive surgeries like spinal fusion may require several months for full recovery.

Are there non-surgical treatments for orthopedic conditions?

Many orthopedic conditions can be managed with non-surgical treatments such as physical therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes. Surgery is often considered when conservative treatments fail to provide relief.

What are the risks of orthopedic surgery?

As with any surgery, orthopedic procedures carry risks, including infection, blood clots, and complications from anesthesia. Specific risks depend on the type of surgery and the patient’s health status.

How do I know if I need orthopedic surgery?

A thorough evaluation by an orthopedic specialist, including imaging tests and a medical history review, can help determine if surgery is necessary. Your doctor will discuss the potential benefits and risks to help you make an informed decision.

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