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Consider The Orthopedic Sub-specialties Before Making A Referral

Sarah Bolander Skin Bones CME
by: Sarah Bolander, MMS, PA-C

Musculoskeletal complaints affect everyone from infants to elderly.  Conditions may be chronic or acute and various orthopedic subspecialties should be considered for referral options.  Some providers practice general orthopedics, while many other practices subspecialize based on areas of the body including Spine, Hand Surgery, Total Joints, and Foot and Ankle.  Additional orthopedic subspecialties include Orthopaedic Oncology, Sports Medicine, Trauma, and Pediatrics.  Each of these can provide unique resources for patients.

Orthopedic oncology provides treatment for both benign and malignant conditions affecting the bone and soft tissue. They often work closely with other specialties including medical and surgical oncology, radiology, radiation oncology, and pathology.  Patients with benign conditions may need additional education before being referred to an orthopedic oncologist since this can cause confusion and unnecessary concern.

Sports medicine practices treat common conditions associated with organized sports and recreational activities.  These disorders may be acute or chronic typically affecting the joints.  Sports medicine provides musculoskeletal injections and arthroscopic treatment options.  Providers in sports medicine often work closely with athletic trainers, physical therapists, and/or coaches for active athletes.  It is common for sports medicine practices to represent specific sports teams, also providing preventative and rehabilitative care for the athletes.

The orthopedic trauma specialty mainly provides acute fracture care and may also provide reconstructive care.  Trauma specialists may have a dedicated anatomic interest such as hand or pelvic injuries.  Trauma teams work closely with the emergency department personnel and surgical team members for patient care at all hours of the day or night.

Pediatric orthopaedic providers deliver a wide variety of care to a large patient population including congenital genetic abnormalities or syndromes, newborn musculoskeletal conditions such as hip dysplasia, torticollis, or clubfeet, typically normal childhood developmental concerns including in-toeing, out-toeing, knocked knees, or bowlegs, acute fracture care, overuse injuries, scoliosis and much more.  Similar to trauma, some pediatric orthopedic practices have specific areas of interest and further specialize.

When referring to an orthopedic specialty practice, consider the patient’s age, diagnosis, and potential treatment interests.  A generic list of possible locations can be confusing for patients and lead to a loss of time and expenses if they are not referred to the appropriate specialty office.  Understanding the practices’ differences allow for more appropriate and timely referrals.  There are many more options beyond simply referring to “Orthopaedics”.


You can see Sarah Bolander, MMS, PA-C speak at a 2019 Skin, Bones, Hearts & Private Parts CME/CE conference in Destin,  Myrtle Beach, Pensacola Beach, Orlando, or Las Vegas.