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What is an orthopedic surgeon?

An orthopedic surgeon is a medical doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating problems of the musculoskeletal system. Your musculoskeletal system includes your bones, muscles, joints, nerves, tendons, ligaments and cartilage -- the body parts that allow you to move normally.

Orthopedic surgeons usually have about 14 years of higher education, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. That education typically includes:

  • four years of study in a college or university
  • four years of study in a medical school
  • five years of study in an orthopedic residency at a major medical center
  • one optional year of study in a specialty within orthopedic surgery

Orthopedic surgeons may specialize in particular body parts. For example, some orthopedic surgeons specialize in problems of the foot and ankle, while others may specialize in problems of the hand and wrist. Some orthopedic surgeons also specialize in musculoskeletal problems in specific types of patients, such as children (pediatric orthopedic surgeons) or athletes (sports medicine doctors).

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.