Pediatric orthopedic surgeons work to diagnose and treat musculoskeletal problems that develop in children. Any orthopedic surgeon may treat patients of various ages. A pediatric orthopedic surgeon, however, has been educated and trained to understand the many differences between conditions that affect an adult’s musculoskeletal system and those that affect a child's. This can be very important, as a child’s musculoskeletal system isn’t merely a diminutive version of an adult’s. Pediatric orthopedic surgeons concentrate on treatments that work well for developing children.
Among the conditions a pediatric orthopedic surgeon diagnoses and treats are deformities that involve a child’s spine or extremities. Some of these conditions are noticeable when a child is born, but others may only become apparent as a child grows older. This type of surgeon may treat a person with a severely curved spine or a clubfoot, for example. Pediatric orthopedic surgeons also treat patients who suffer from abnormalities in the way they walk. For example, this surgeon may treat someone who has a limp.
A pediatric orthopedic surgeon also diagnoses and treats infections and tumors. Often, people think of infections and tumors as problems that only affect other parts of the body, such as the throat or the brain. Both of these conditions can affect a child’s bones and joints, however. When the joints and bones develop abnormal growths or infections, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon provides specialized treatment. They also provide care for children with broken bones.
Besides diagnosing and treating patients, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon typically pays special attention to using child-friendly examination techniques and providing care in a non-threatening manner. These doctors work to ensure that children feel as comfortable as possible during examinations and treatment, attempting to encourage their patients' cooperation. They are usually experienced with tactfully providing medical information to calm upset parents as well. Often, these surgeons also design their examination and waiting rooms with families in mind, providing toys, books, and other child-friendly distractions.
The reason a pediatric orthopedic surgeon is typically so adept at providing musculoskeletal care for children is the amount of time he spends training to become a surgeon. Usually, a person in this field completes four years each of college and medical school. After medical school, he usually spends an additional five years in a residency program for orthopedic surgeons; this is basically on-the-job training. He then spends a final year in a special training program for pediatric orthopedics.