What Is a Pediatric Orthopaedic Surgeon?
A pediatric orthopaedist is the best-trained and most experienced doctor to properly evaluate and treat musculoskeletal (bone, joint, or muscle) problems in a child who is still growing. This includes newborn babies through teenagers.
What kind of training do pediatric orthopaedic surgeons have?
Pediatric orthopaedic surgeons choose to make the care of children the focus of their medical practice. The unique nature of medical and surgical care of children is learned from advanced training and experience in practice. Pediatric orthopaedic surgeons are doctors who have the following education and training:
- Graduated from an approved medical school (typically four years)
- Graduated from an approved orthopaedic surgery residency program (typically five years)
- Completed additional subspecialty training in pediatric orthopaedics and pediatric spinal deformity (typically one year)
What types of problems do pediatric orthopaedic surgeons treat?
A child's musculoskeletal problems are different from those of an adult. Because children are still growing, the body's response to injuries, infections, and deformities may be quite different than what would be seen in a full-grown person.
Sometimes, what is thought to be a problem in a child is just a variation of growth that will resolve with time. A good example of this is intoeing in a toddler. Some of the problems children have with their bones and joints that are due to growth do not even occur in adults. In addition, the evaluation and treatment of a child is usually quite different than for an adult -- even for the same problem.
Children with complex pediatric problems are best managed by a medical-surgical team approach. Pediatric orthopaedic surgeons diagnose, treat, and manage children's musculoskeletal problems, such as:
- Limb and spine deformities noted at birth or later in life (clubfoot, scoliosis, limb length differences)
- Gait abnormalities (limping)
- Broken bones
- Bone or joint infections and tumors
Pediatric orthopaedic surgeons: Specialty care for children
Children are not just small adults. They cannot always say what is bothering them, or answer medical questions, or be patient and cooperative during a medical examination. Pediatric orthopaedic surgeons know how to examine and treat children in a way that helps them to be relaxed and cooperative.
They also appreciate the worry that goes with having a child with a musculoskeletal problem and they have experience in communicating with anxious family members.
Most pediatric orthopaedic surgeons' offices are arranged and decorated with children in mind. Specially designed equipment, available toys, videos, and reading materials all help to create a comfortable and nonthreatening environment for the child.
Where can I find a pediatric orthopaedic surgeon?
Pediatric orthopaedists have extensive and comprehensive training, and as well as expertise in dealing with children and treating their musculoskeletal problems. Your pediatrician or primary care doctor may have suggestions about whom to see, or if you feel that a pediatric orthopaedist is the right doctor for your child, the Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America (POSNA) contains a directory of members in every geographic location:
AAOS does not endorse any treatments, procedures, products, or physicians referenced herein. This information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. Anyone seeking specific orthopaedic advice or assistance should consult his or her orthopaedic surgeon, or locate one in your area through the AAOS Find an Orthopaedist program on this website.