In the field of medicine, pediatric orthopedics is concerned with diseases, conditions and injuries of the musculoskeletal system, or the bones and muscles, of children and young adults. This specialization may include bone diseases such as cancer, bone conditions such as those causing excessive growth, or injuries such as fractures.
Here we’ll take a closer look at what pediatric orthopedics is, and some of the specializations within this already specialized field.
Orthopedist or Orthopedic Surgeon?
While both of these specialties are concerned with bone and muscular health, there is a major distinction. An orthopedist is trained in treating bone and muscle diseases, injuries and conditions without the use of surgical procedures. A pediatric orthopedist may prescribe appropriate medications, recommend physical therapy or an exercise regimen for a particular case, but they are not equipped to perform surgery. If surgery becomes necessary, the orthopedist will refer a patient to a pediatric orthopedic surgeon.
Those who specialize in surgical pediatric orthopedics have chosen to specialize in surgery of the bones and muscles. This can be something relatively simple, such as inserting a pin to help with the strengthening and proper healing of a broken bone. However, orthopedic surgery can also be extremely delicate and involved, such as the correction of a curved spine. Spinal curvatures are a fairly common occurrence in children and adolescents, and can lead to permanent disfigurement if left untreated.
In short, a pediatric orthopedist is more knowledgeable in the external treatment of skeletal and muscular issues. A surgeon specializing in pediatric orthopedics is knowledgeable in performing the operations which are sometimes needed to correct these issues.
Pediatric Orthopedic Specialties
Even though pediatric orthopedics is a specialty in and of itself, the field can be further specialized if a doctor feels a strong pull toward a certain aspect of orthopedics. The following is a short list of some common pediatric orthopedics specialties.
- Hand and Wrist Conditions – Due to the large number of small, fragile bones in the hand and wrist, and because of our dependence on our hands to perform a multitude of vital tasks, treating conditions in these areas requires a great deal of skill. Whether externally or surgically, pediatric orthopedics dealing with the hands and wrists must be performed with a strong eye for detail.
- Spinal Conditions – Spinal conditions in children and young adults can lead to permanent disfigurement. Due to this, pediatric orthopedics which deals with spinal issues is crucial for proper growth. In many cases, surgery is required to correct a crooked spine, although, if caught early enough, external remedies such as braces may be sufficient.
- Sports Medicine – Both children and adults often become injured during sports. These injuries are so common that they have created their own field of medicine. Treating sports injuries in children is also its own field, due to the difference between injuries to fully grown adults and to children and young adults who are not yet done growing. An injury during the growing process can be much more detrimental, possibly resulting in stunted growth or even deformities. Therefore, pediatric orthopedics which deals with sports injuries requires a very detailed understanding of anatomy. External medicine and surgery are both used to treat sports injuries; a specialist will determine which is more appropriate on a case-by-case basis.
Relating to Children and Young Adults
One of the most important aspects of pediatric orthopedics, whether a doctor specializes in medical or surgical procedures, is relating to the patient. While most people have a certain degree of apprehension when it comes to medical procedures, children are especially vulnerable. They simply don’t have the life experience to prepare them for something so unfamiliar, and the experience can be terrifying if the doctor doesn’t relate to them properly.
Relating to a young patient begins before doctor and patient ever meet. Pediatric orthopedics offices are usually very child-friendly, with waiting rooms which cater to younger patients. Fish tanks are a universal soothing addition to waiting rooms, and they are especially effective on young patients. A good pediatric orthopedist will keep their waiting room stocked with distractions for patients of all ages, including toys for young children and magazines which appeal to adolescents.
Pediatric orthopedics also relies heavily on the interpersonal relationship between doctor and patient. A doctor who uses unnecessarily hard-to-understand medical language will only distance himself from a young patient. Relating to patients on their own level is crucial for building trust and easing apprehension when dealing with children and young adults. A large part of a successful pediatric orthopedics practice has to do with relating well to patients and putting them at ease during what is often a frightening and stressful time.
Using Pediatric Orthopedics To Help the Disadvantaged
A number of doctors specializing in pediatric orthopedics choose to devote at least part of their careers to helping those in dire need of medical assistance. In certain underdeveloped and developing countries, spinal disorders are rampant. In many cases, local doctors simply aren’t equipped to deal with these disorders. As a result, many young people grow up with severe deformities. Scoliosis, a disorder which causes a curvature of the spine, can actually prove lethal if left unchecked. When the spine doesn’t grow as it should, it can eventually compress the lungs and heart.
Some Doctors who specialize in pediatric orthopedics often make trips to countries in need of their particular skills. With the help of different charity organizations, they set up clinics and treat patients in the area. These surgeries literally transform the lives of affected children, often making the difference between a life of being ostracized by their peers and dying prematurely, and a life of possibilities and potential.
As you can see, regardless of where they practice or which branch of orthopedics they specialize in, doctors who choose pediatric orthopedics have a huge impact on quality of life for their patients.
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