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Choosing a Surgeon

When choosing an orthopaedic surgeon, it helps to know something about how to compare the training and experience of the different professionals who are available to you. Below are some suggestions of what type of information you should know.

Surgeons Training
Orthopaedic surgeons are medical doctors or osteopaths. After college, they attend medical school for 4 years to receive an MD or DO degree. Following medical school or osteopath school, surgeons must complete a residency in orthopaedics. This is usually a minimum of 5 years. While in residency, the surgeons learn much more about the bones, joints, and muscles of the body. It is here that the orthopaedic surgeons-in-training learn to operate and perfect their surgical skills under the guidance of the professors of orthopaedic surgery.

After the residency, surgeons begin practice. New surgeons must obtain surgical privileges at the hospitals where surgery will be performed. This requires extensive credentialing by the hospital. The surgeons’ backgrounds and training are checked extensively.

Board Certification
Orthopaedic surgeons are certified by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgeons. To become board certified, surgeons must pass exams that are given 2 years after entering practice. To maintain board certification, surgeons must take an additional test every 10 years and prove that they have attended a minimum number of hours of continuing education.

Fellowship Training
Many orthopaedic surgeons choose to specialize even further. This requires even more training in the form of a fellowship. A fellowship usually lasts 6 to 12 months. During the fellowship, surgeons work with one or more experts in a specialized field of orthopaedic surgery. This allows the surgeons to become even more experienced in certain areas, such as joint replacement, spinal surgery, hand surgery, children’s orthopaedics, or sports medicine, to name a few.

Your Relationship With Your Surgeon
In addition to the clinical credentials, a good surgeon will have good human credentials. That means showing concern for your pain, taking time to hear your concerns, and answering your questions fully.

Next: Preparing for Your First Visit


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