If you have been told that your child needs to see a pediatric orthopedic specialist, it is normal to be concerned. You probably have questions about why your child needs to see a specialist, what the prognosis is, and whether orthopedics can even help children at all. The answer is that, yes, orthopedic care can certainly help children in certain situations.
Furthermore, a lot of orthopedic specialists will actually complete a fellowship after finishing residency to specialize in orthopedic care specifically involving children. What are some of the most common reasons why children may need to see a pediatric orthopedic specialist? There are a few common medical issues that a pediatric orthopedic specialist might treat.
Acute Bone Fractures and Ligament Tears
In many situations, children suffer the same injuries as adults. Therefore, they require the same level of orthopedic care. Some of the most common injuries that a pediatric orthopedic specialist may treat include:
- A displaced fracture of the radius or ulna, which are the two bones that make up the wrist, which can take place if a child falls on an outstretched hand
- A fracture of the humerus, which is the larger bone at the top of the arm, which can take place in a traumatic accident, such as a car accident
- A fracture of the tibia or fibula, which are the two smaller bones that make up the lower leg, which can take place while playing sports or if a child falls from a great height
- A fracture of the femur, which is the large bone that makes up the thigh, which can take place in traumatic accidents
- A ligament tear in the elbow, possibly involving the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL), which is common among baseball players, particularly pitchers
- A tear of one of the ligaments in the knee such as the ACL, MCL, LCL, or PCL, which is common in athletes
These are all orthopedic injuries that might require the attention of a trained pediatric orthopedist. Even though a significant proportion of bone, muscle, and ligament issues involving children are acute in nature, this is not always the case. In some cases, a child may be referred to an orthopedic specialist due to chronic, long-term issues.
Complicated Hip Disorders
There are some children who are diagnosed with complex hip conditions. Pediatric hip conditions can impact children at any age. One of the most common conditions is called hip dysplasia, which is a condition where the hip socket does not form properly. This can lead to a hip dislocation at birth or abnormal development of the hip socket itself as a child continues to grow.
If this is having an adverse impact on a child's overall quality of life, a trained pediatric orthopedic surgeon may need to reconstruct the hip socket itself. The pediatric orthopedic surgeon will work with each family on an individual basis to decide on the best course of action.
Lower Limb Deformities
In addition, there are specific orthopedic conditions that could impact the lower limbs as well. A lot of childhood conditions, such as knock knees and bow legs, will resolve as a child continues to grow. There are some situations where these issues do not resolve on their own. In this situation, there could be angular issues involving the legs. Or, there might even be differences in the length of each individual leg.
These are issues that a trained pediatric orthopedic surgeon knows how to address. A pediatric orthopedic surgeon will clearly explain each individual treatment option and help the family make the right decision.
Pediatric Issues Involving the Spine
There are some situations where children may have issues involving the spine. For example, scoliosis is one of the most common orthopedic issues that occurs in children. This condition is diagnosed at the spine abnormally curves from side to side, impacting the shoulders and pelvis.
In addition, there are other children who may be diagnosed with a stress fracture of the spine, often called spondylolysis. There are some issues where there may be abnormal mobility of the spine, usually referred to as spondylolisthesis. Even though a lot of these issues will not require surgery, a trained pediatric orthopedic specialist can still advise families on what the most appropriate course of action is to address these spinal issues.
Slipped Cap Femoral Epiphysis (SCFE)
Another potentially serious pediatric orthopedic condition is called slipped cap femoral epiphysis. This is a disorder that usually occurs in teenagers. With this condition, the ball at the upper end of the femur, which is the thigh bone, will slip off of the rest of the thigh in a backward direction. This is a medical and surgical emergency that has to be addressed as quickly as possible. It commonly occurs in adolescent athletes.
Work With a Pediatric Orthopedic Specialist
These are just a few of the most common conditions that a pediatric orthopedic specialist might treat. Importantly, not every pediatric orthopedic specialist is going to recommend surgery. Even though an orthopedic specialist can perform surgery, a trained orthopedist will always recommend more conservative treatment options first, if possible.
It is important for every family to work with a trained pediatric orthopedic specialist if they have been referred to one by their primary care doctor. That way, they can work with a trained orthopedic specialist to ensure the best possible care for their child.