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Musculoskeletal symptoms rank as the No.2 reason for physician and hospital visits. In 2006, there were more than 132 million visits to doctors for these issues.
*Source: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

Understanding Orthopedic Surgery

Orthopedics describes a broad range of medical specialties that involve the treatment of the musculoskeletal system, which includes your bones, joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles.

Orthopedic surgery, sometimes called orthopaedics, is a specific branch of surgery that uses surgical and nonsurgical methods to treat conditions that include musculoskeletal trauma, degenerative diseases, tumors, infections, sports injuries and congenital diseases. Bone problems may include deformities, infections, tumors and fractures, while common joint issues include arthritis, bursitis, dislocation and ligament tears.

Diagnoses for orthopedic issues are grouped according to body parts: ankle and foot; hand and wrist; shoulder; knee; elbow; and spine. Surgeons in this field tend to specialize their practices and services according to particular body parts.

WellStar Health System delivers comprehensive outpatent and inpatient orthopedic care. Orthopedic surgeons operate at all five WellStar hospitals.

Eighty percent of adults suffer from back and neck pain at some point in their lives. Orthopedic spine specialists at WellStar focus on the treatment of mechanical disorders of the spine, such as disc herniation and degeneration, spinal stenosis, fractures, scoliosis, spondylosisthesis, and bone tumors. Spine surgeons at WellStar are leading the way in minimally invasive spine procedures. These innovative techniques speed recovery and reduce post-operative pain.

Orthopedic surgeons perform over 2,000 joint replacements annually at WellStar. The WellStar Center for Joint Replacement excels in the treatment of hip and knee joints, especially when affected by arthritis. The center has earned numerous awards and honors, including the Joint Commission Disease Specific Care Certification, the Blue Cross/Blue Shield Center of Distinction, the Aetna Institute of Quality for Orthopaedic Total Joint Replacement and Spine Surgery and the UnitedHealth Premium Specialty Center in Total Joint Replacement.


Because of the numerous problems that may affect bones, joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles, there are a wide range of treatments and services available. Nearly all procedures will involve imaging procedures, including arthograms, which are specialized X-rays for joints; bone scans; computed tomography (CT) scans; and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.

Medication is often used during treatment, such as injections of pain-relieving drugs directly into the affected area. This often includes corticosteroid injections into joints, tendons and ligaments or around the spine or hyaluronic acid injections to help relieve arthritis pain.

In-patient and outpatient surgeries to correct deformities, repair fractures, replace joints or to reconstruct ligaments and tendons all have their specific preparations, procedures and recovery guidelines.


Arthroscopy is a common procedure for diagnosing and often treating joint problems. During this procedure, the surgeon inserts a narrow tube outfitted with a fiber-optic video camera through a small incision near the joint. This allows the surgeon to view the joint, and even work on it, without having to make a large incision.

For this outpatient procedure, you may be asked to avoid certain medications, refrain from eating for a period of time and wear loose clothing. Preparations and procedures vary depending on the joint, but you can expect to under a local, regional or general anesthesia.

The procedure will take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours. Your surgical staff will provide instructions for your post-surgical care.


Arthroplasty describes the surgical procedures designed to totally replace main joints, most often the knee or the hip. For each procedure, a surgeon cuts away damaged bone and cartilage and replaces it with an artificial joint made of metal alloys, high-grade plastics and polymers.

These surgeries require considerable planning for the procedure and for post-care, especially since you will likely need the assistance of crutches or a walker. Your surgical staff will provide detailed instructions concerning your medications, food intake and other items for the day of your surgery.

The surgery itself will take about two hours, but you will remain in a recovery area for several hours as your anesthesia wears off. Because of the increased risk of blood clots in your legs, you may be prescribed special medication.