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What to expect: First visit to an orthopedic surgeon

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Orthopedic surgeons are physicians who are trained in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of conditions affecting the musculoskeletal system, which includes the bones, joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles.

At SIU Medicine, our orthopedic specialists use their advanced knowledge and skills to help people living with painful disorders of the spine, shoulder, elbow, hand, hip, knee, foot and ankle for both adult and pediatric patients. Conditions like arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, knee meniscus tears, ligament sprains, and chronic pain can impair a person's quality of life and make even simple daily tasks difficult. Illinois residents can receive the latest advances in orthopedic care and help people reclaim the active and fulfilling lives they want.

Are you getting ready for an initial appointment with an orthopedic surgeon? Read on to learn about what your doctor will likely do during your first visit.

Review your medical history

Your orthopedic surgeon should already have some background information about you before you arrive for your appointment, especially if another health care provider has referred you to their office. Even so, your orthopedic surgeon will likely want to review your medical history more thoroughly in order to guide later diagnosis and treatment options.

He or she may ask about:

  • Details about your primary concerns—including what your symptoms are, what makes them better or worse and how long you've been experiencing them
  • What kind of treatments you've already tried, if any
  • Any other health conditions you have
  • Medications and/or supplements you're currently taking (bring a list!) 
  • What your goals and expectations are
     

Perform a physical examination

Based on the information you've provided so far, your orthopedic surgeon may physically examine certain areas of your body. They'll be assessing things like strength, range of motion, sensation, reflexes and pain reproduction, and sometimes use special tests. They may also collect other information about your physical health, such as your weight, height, heart rate and blood pressure. In some cases, a nurse or medical assistant might help gather some of this information. 

To help them get a better idea of how your condition is affecting you, your orthopedic surgeon may even ask you to perform certain tasks, such as walking or raising your arms over your head. Tip: wear comfortable clothes and supportive shoes to your appointment.

In addition to a physical examination, your doctor might recommend a variety of imaging tests, such as X-rays, MRI or CT scan. These tests help your doctor visualize joints and other structures inside your body so that he or she can diagnose and/or monitor your condition more accurately. Keep in mind that you may need to schedule a follow-up visit to complete certain imaging studies or additional tests, such as laboratory tests of blood or joint fluid. 

Discuss your diagnosis and next options

At this point in the visit, it's time for your orthopedic surgeon to use their advanced skills, analyze all the data they've collected about you so far and offer their professional insights about what your diagnosis might be and what your treatment options are moving forward. 

Believe it or not, orthopedic surgeons do so much more than perform surgeries! In fact, surgery is often offered only as a last resort. When possible, most orthopedic surgeons will do their best to help you explore non-surgical treatment options first, such as oral medications, joint injections, physical therapy and exercise. Even if you do end up needing surgery, such as a hip or knee replacement, many non-surgical interventions recommended by your surgeon will help improve your outcomes following your procedure. 

Got questions during your visit? Ask away! Your orthopedic surgeon will be more than happy to answer your questions and help you understand the risks, benefits, indications and alternatives to any and all interventions he or she recommends. 

Have you been referred to an orthopedic surgeon?

If you'd like to schedule an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon in Southern Illinois, find a doctor at SIU Medicine today. 

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