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Orthopedic Trauma Surgeon

Orthopedic trauma patient with a broken leg.

An orthopedic trauma surgeon treats injuries to the musculoskeletal system. The goal of orthopedic trauma treatment is to restore function, alleviate pain and improve or preserve quality of life. This type of physician treats patients both surgically and non-operatively, depending on which approach is appropriate for each patient.


In a hospital emergency room, a trauma surgeon may treat conditions that can threaten life or limb, such as compound fractures or compartment syndrome (dangerous swelling of the muscles that can damage nerves and other tissues). But not all orthopedic trauma conditions are this serious and, outside the hospital setting, these surgeons treat a range of conditions, from minor injuries to disabling and disfiguring wounds.

Types of Orthopedic Trauma Injuries

Minor traumatic injuries include fractured bones and dislocated joints that do not require hospitalization. In many cases, people who have gone to a hospital emergency room and been diagnosed with a fracture will be referred to make an appointment with an orthopedic trauma surgeon.

Major traumatic conditions include severe soft-tissue tears of the muscles, cartilage, tendons or ligaments and badly broken bones. Orthopedic trauma surgeons often perform surgery for high-impact bone fractures, such as those caused by car accidents, as well as industrial and work-related accidents. These include:

  • comminuted fractures (in which one or more bones is shattered into pieces)
  • compound fractures (open fractures)
  • compression fractures
  • displaced fractures
  • spiral fractures (also known as torsion fractures)

Surgery may also be needed to repair less severe fractures that are not healing (called a nonunion or pseudarthrosis), fractures that are healing improperly (malunion) and large muscle injuries such as a torn quad (quadriceps) tendon.

Common Conditions Treated by Orthopedic Trauma Surgeons

Bone fractures are the most common injuries treated by an orthopedic trauma surgeon. These include:

  • broken shoulder or collarbone (clavicle)
  • broken elbow
  • broken arm, including Galeazzi fracture of the radius
  • broken hip or pelvis
  • broken leg (femur, tibia)

Will I Need Surgery for My Injury?

Your surgeon will assess your condition to determine whether nonsurgical treatments, including physical therapy may help. When surgery is required, some orthopedic trauma procedures may be performed as outpatient surgery at our ambulatory surgery center, HSS Palm Beach ASC. Others must be done in the hospital.