Trauma and orthopaedics is an area of surgery concerned with injuries and conditions that affect the musculoskeletal system (the bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles and nerves).

You may be referred to a trauma and orthopaedic consultant for treatment of an injury such as a bone fracture, a deformity of the spine or limbs, or a long-term condition that's developed over many years, such as osteoarthritis.

Orthopaedic specialists treat people of all ages, including:

  • Newborns and children with deformities – such as congenital dislocation of the hip, club foot and scoliosis
  • Young people who need joint preserving surgery – such as arthroscopic surgery or osteotomy (see below)
  • Older people with irreversible degenerative joint problems – who need their joints replacing

Orthopaedic specialists

Most consultants who work in trauma and orthopaedics provide emergency and non-emergency care for musculoskeletal injuries following an initial assessment in accident and emergency (A&E).

They may:

  • Diagnose injuries or disorders using X-rays, blood tests or other tests
  • Treat injuries or conditions with medication or surgery
  • Recommend exercises or physiotherapy to restore movement, strength and functionality

Most orthopaedic consultants also have a specialist interest. This may be a particular orthopaedic condition, a specific area of the body, or a field such as paediatrics or sport surgery.

Orthopaedic operations

Some of the most common operations orthopaedic surgeons carry out include:

  • Repairing fractured bones – for more information, you can read about:
    • broken arm or wrist 
    • broken ankle 
    • broken collarbone 
    • broken hip 
    • broken leg
  • Arthroscopy – a minimally invasive (keyhole) technique, where tools are inserted into a joint to diagnose and repair damaged joint tissue, such as cartilage damage
  • Repairing damaged muscles, torn tendons or torn ligaments
  • Arthroplasty – surgery used to replace or resurface joints, usually because of arthritis; hip replacements and knee replacements are two widely used and highly effective operations
  • Surgery to correct bony deformity – procedures to correct deformities of the spine or limbs that either limit function or would cause long-term problems if left untreated. Examples are fusion surgery (where bones are welded together to heal into a single, solid bone) and osteotomy (correcting a bony malalignment to help prevent degeneration of an adjacent joint)