Orthopedic Trauma – Assessments & Treatments
When your musculoskeletal system is damaged, an orthopedic trauma surgeon is the right person to repair it. Specializing in acute and traumatic injuries, these surgeons have the training necessary to get you back on your feet as soon as possible.
Understanding the Basics of Traumatic Injury
Traumatic injuries usually require immediate surgery to facilitate proper healing. Often the result of an accident, these injuries may include damage to:
The field of orthopedic trauma focuses mainly on bone fractures, but surgeons may treat any number of musculoskeletal disorders or injuries. The goal of surgery is to return bones and joints to their proper positions, fix alignment and restore movement.
Surgeons with training in traumatic injury treat fractures of all types. They also address improperly healed bones resulting from previous injuries or complications during reconstructive surgery. Nonunions, in which bones don’t heal even after being set, may require additional surgery or another form of treatment to correct the problem and restore function.
Malunions involve bones healing or joints setting in the wrong position and may result in painful swelling, limited movement or visible deformity. In these cases, an orthopedic surgeon may need to separate the bone and re-set it to correct the problem.
Do You Need Trauma Surgery?
In most cases, traumatic injuries involving fractures or severe damage to soft tissue require an immediate visit to the hospital. If you’re in an accident, call an ambulance immediately and immobilize the injured area to prevent further damage while you wait for help. Once you arrive at the hospital, the emergency staff there will assess your situation and determine the best course of action for treatment.
Some injuries may be life-threatening, such as those involving bones protruding from the body or puncturing organs. Serious accidents can cause multiple breaks, damage to blood vessels and tearing or rupturing of other tissues. These cases require not only a trauma surgeon but also other specialists to address every damaged body system and increase the chances of complete recovery.
By contrast, there are times when you may not even know you have a broken bone. This is often the case with sports injuries or fractures resulting from overuse. Runners may be susceptible to stress fractures in the feet or legs, but the symptoms aren’t always recognized as a break. If you participate in high-impact sports and experience worsening pain in one part of your body during activity, it’s best to visit an orthopedist and get an X-ray, an MRI or a bone scan to determine if you do have a fracture. Other symptoms requiring evaluation for fracture or tissue damage include:
- Severe swelling
- Painful bruising
- Feeling a cracking or popping sensation during strenuous activity or after trauma
- Visible deformity of an extremity
- Sudden pain appearing during activity and continuing even after rest and home treatments
Individuals with conditions such as osteoporosis may be at higher risk for fractures. Any repetitive motion can strain soft tissue, and congenital defects or deformities may also increase the likelihood of injuries requiring treatment.
What Trauma Surgeons Do
Broken bones are the most common injuries treated by trauma surgeons. They realign breaks and address other associated complications, including torn ligaments, damaged tendons or problems with muscles. In serious cases, they may work with other surgeons to correct vascular damage or repair organs. The goal is to treat and manage all aspects of the injury not only during surgery but also throughout the entire healing process to restore full function.
Your surgeon won’t disappear after your broken bone or soft tissue injury has been knit back together. He or she remains part of your medical team, working with you, your primary doctor, physical therapists and other healthcare providers to ensure you receive well-rounded care while on the road to recovery.
Some surgeons focus on treating damage to particular body parts or working with individuals suffering from orthopedic disorders. Limb deformities, chronic injuries, pediatric conditions and geriatric fractures may require targeted treatment from specially trained surgeons.
Your Options for Traumatic Injury Treatment
The hospital is likely your first stop if you have a fracture or serious soft tissue injury. Your case is handled on an emergency basis, meaning it’s likely you’ll be sent for scans right away and expedited for surgery. The injured area is stabilized, and steps are taken to minimize bleeding.
During surgery, broken bones are set in place through a process called reduction. Closed reduction sets bones without cutting into the injured area. Open reduction requires an incision and may also involve the use of plates, screws or rods to keep the bones stable as they heal. Depending on the severity of your injury, corrective hardware may need to remain in place permanently.
You may be put in traction or given a cast, sling or splint to protect the injured area after corrective treatment. However, rehabilitation often begins as soon as possible. Immobilizing the area for too long can do more harm than good, and a proper rehab program is essential to prevent loss of strength and range of motion.
In the instance of an injury not requiring immediate treatment, your doctor may refer you to a specialist. Common specialties include:
• Foot and ankle surgery
• Hand surgery
• Hip and knee surgery
• Joint reconstruction
• Shoulder and elbow surgery
• Spinal surgery
• Sports medicine
Visiting a specialist ensures you receive targeted treatment for your specific condition. Your primary doctor can help you find the best provider to assess the severity of your injury and perform the necessary corrective procedures.
Nobody wants to need a surgeon specializing in traumatic injuries, but in the event of an accident, these doctors can be your best allies. Familiarize yourself with the best surgeons in your area so that you know where to go if you need help with a bone, joint or soft tissue injury. With the right surgeon and team of specialists on your side, you’ll be on the road to recovery in no time.