What is an orthopaedic surgeon?

An orthopaedic surgeon is a doctor who specialises in diagnosing and treating problems to do with the musculoskeletal system, such as broken bones, sport injuries and degenerative diseases like osteoporosis.
As well as their medical degree, they will have undergone intensive specialist training and have a fellowship of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and the Australasian Orthopaedic Association. Some orthopaedic surgeons may focus on a particular area of the body, such as hands or feet and ankles, or in a specified area – working with children or with cancer patients.

What does an orthopaedic surgeon do?

It helps to know the terminology around this specialty to understand more about what it involves. You may already be wondering, “What does orthopaedic mean?” The term “orthopaedic” comes from the Greek words “ortho”, meaning “straight”, and “pais”, meaning “child”. When it was first used in the 18th century, it referred to treating children with deformities of the spine and limbs.

Nowadays, it relates to care of the musculoskeletal system in patients of all ages, and it means that orthopaedic surgeons have a far-reaching remit.

They see patients with a wide range of conditions, including:

  • Sports injuries
  • Cancer
  • Fractures and trauma
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome and other hand and finger issues
  • Disorders relating to the feet and ankles, such as bunions and plantar fasciitis
  • Arthritis and osteoarthritis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Muscle, tendon and ligament injuries

The treatment they offer may involve surgery or non-surgical solutions. So, to repair broken bones, they may perform a type of surgery called internal fixation to hold the broken parts together. Or, they may offer joint replacement surgery for knees and hips.

Non-surgical treatment includes administering pain-relieving injections to patients with arthritis and prescribing the use of braces and splints for injuries.

Do you need a referral to see an orthopaedic?

You don’t necessarily need an orthopedic referral from your general practitioner to see an orthopaedic surgeon if you’re happy to pay the cost yourself. But if you want to use Medicare to cover some of the costs, you will need that referral.

How much do orthopaedic surgeons cost?

The cost of seeing an orthopaedic surgeon varies considerably depending on the nature of the appointment and where you are seen (in a public or private facility).

As a guide, your first consultation with an orthopaedic surgeon is likely to cost somewhere between $200 – $300 with a Medicare rebate of approximately $73 for those eligible.

Review consultations generally range from around $120-$180 with a Medicare rebate of approximately $37 (if eligible). Oftentimes orthopaedic surgeons will not charge for review consultations post surgery.

Many private health insurance policies cover surgery and in-hospital treatment with orthopaedic surgeons, however waiting periods may apply for things like hip and knee replacements. By law private health insurance can’t help pay for out-of-hospital specialist fees.

It makes sense to check with your orthopaedic surgeon what your out-of-pocket costs will be at the time of making your appointment. During your appointment, if  surgery is recommended your surgeon should take you through a range of options. You can ask the practice about the fees your surgeon charges for different procedures. They should also be able to give you guidance on things such as anaesthetist costs. These will vary widely depending on whether you’re treated in the public or private system.

If you’re cost sensitive, it can be worth checking with different orthopedic surgeons around the fees they charge for different procedures.

How do I find an orthopaedic surgeon?

Finding the right orthopaedic surgeon for you can feel daunting, and you may feel overwhelmed at making the decision. But with some insight and recommendations, making that choice becomes a whole lot easier.

Use Whitecoat to search for orthopaedic surgeons in your chosen location. You can read through the reviews and ratings to find someone who specialises in your condition. And, you can even make that first step by booking your appointment online, safe in the knowledge that you have all the information you need at your fingertips.

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