What To Look For In A Pediatric Orthopedist
Children often have accidents, sports injuries, or musculoskeletal conditions that require the attention of a pediatric orthopedist. But what should parents look for when choosing a pediatric orthopedist for their child’s care?
What Does A Pediatric Orthopedist Do?
A pediatric orthopedist is an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in diagnosing, treating, and managing musculoskeletal problems in children, from birth through the teenage years. As a subspecialty of orthopedics, a pediatric orthopedist has done additional pediatric fellowship training focused on this area. While all of our doctors at The Pediatric Orthopedic Center (TPOC) are trained as surgeons, we don’t always have to perform surgery to get our patients to where they need to be. We can perform surgery when necessary, but may also provide other kinds of orthopedic care, including casting and bracing.
Why Would You Need To See A Pediatric Orthopedist?
As we’ve detailed in a previous post, many parents bring their child in for consultation or treatment for trauma or sports injuries. Pediatric orthopedists also treat specific conditions such as scoliosis, hip dysplasia or congenital deformities such as clubfoot. Patients with cerebral palsy who may develop deformities affecting the muscles, joints, or bones may often require care from a pediatric orthopedist.
A specialized pediatric orthopedic approach is required when it comes to children. At TPOC, we often say that children are not small adults. Their bodies require a different approach to orthopedic care for several reasons.
- As opposed to adults, children are still growing. Children’s growth plates at the ends of each of their long bones are open and remain so until the end of puberty. Growth plates are the areas new bone is created, allowing children to grow. Pediatric orthopedists use techniques to avoid damaging these as bones grow. For this reason, we may alter our care plan to avoid any injury to the growth plates.
- Being younger, with much growth remaining, gives children the ability to remodel a fracture. Bone is constantly being broken down and rebuilt by the body. When you are younger you put down more bone than you take away. This allows the body to put the new bone where it belongs, which in turn allows children to remodel any misalignment of the healed fracture. This remodeling capability means that as pediatric orthopedists, we don’t always have to be as aggressive with our care, as may be needed when treating an adult for the same injury. As a pediatric orthopedist we know what is acceptable for the body which often allows our patients to avoid surgical intervention.
- Children generally heal much more quickly than adults do. The younger the patient is, the faster they generally heal. This often allows them to return to their activities more quickly.
Patients will often present to an orthopedist with complaints of pain, either acute or related to overuse. Children tend to be very active which makes children more susceptible to overuse issues. The locations and causes of pain may differ in children vs. adults. The exam can help rule out common pediatric overuse complaints such as tendonitis or apophysitis (Osgood-Schlatters, Severs, Little Leaguers elbow etc.) or less common causes such as osteochondritis dessicans. Additional tests/imaging may help diagnose some of these pediatric orthopedic disorders.
For example, children often complain of pain in the thigh or knee. This pain could be related to overuse, though it could also be due to more specific pediatric orthopedic disorders that affect the hips and refer pain to the thigh/knee such as Perthes disease or slipped capital femoral epiphysis (SCFE).
Younger children cannot always give a good history or explain where their pain is. A child who is not moving their arm could be due to a nursemaid’s elbow (dislocated elbow ligament) or a fracture of the upper extremity. Deciphering which is the cause of the pain can allow for the correct treatment. Having a pediatric orthopedist who is used to handling young children can give you an advantage.
Which Parts Of The Body Are Treated By A Pediatric Orthopedist?
Pediatric orthopedists take care of issues involving the extremities, pelvis and spine. These include acute injuries such as playground injuries and sports injuries, as well as more atraumatic overuse or chronic issues which can be related to spine or limb deformity, hip dysplasia or gait abnormalities.
At The Pediatric Orthopedic Center, we treat children and teens for sports injuries, playground injuries, or trauma from more serious accidents or mishaps. These injuries can affect the limbs, the spine, or the pelvis. The young athletes we see come in with broken bones, stress fractures, and strained/sprained/torn muscles/tendons/ligaments affecting any of the four extremities.
We treat a multitude of nontraumatic musculoskeletal disorders, which can be congenital or developmental in nature. Common disorders include scoliosis and other spinal conditions, hip dysplasia, and congenital musculoskeletal conditions, including torticollis, bowed legs, in-toeing, clubfoot, and many others. As noted above, a child may suffer from a nontraumatic—but treatable condition—such as Perthes disease or SCFE. Due to their high level of activities, overuse issues such as Osgood-Schlatters and Severs are commonly seen in children.
What Can You Expect From A Visit To A Pediatric Orthopedist?
When you visit a pediatric orthopedist, make sure you are meeting with a surgeon who relates well to your child and takes the time to listen and understand their issues. A good pediatric orthopedist is someone who communicates well with both parents and children so they can understand the problem and treatment.
At TPOC, your visit will include obtaining a pertinent history and a detailed physical exam, during which the orthopedist will palpate the area and explore your child’s range of motion and stability. To accurately diagnose the problem, we may require X-ray or EOS imaging, which we will do in our office. In some cases, our pediatric orthopedists will refer the patient for further testing such as an MRI, for more detailed view of the bones or ligaments. The visit will conclude with a discussion regarding the orthopedic issue and recommended treatment.
Parents who choose a larger pediatric orthopedic practice will have access to more physicians and other healthcare providers, with broader skills to apply to children’s varying needs. When researching practices, some other aspects to ask about include:
- Whether the practice has an EOS machine, which uses a lower dose of radiation than traditional X-ray and delivers 2D and 3D images.
- The orthopedic practice’s hospital affiliations, which are important if your child requires in-patient surgery.
- Walk-in emergency hours for urgent issues that require immediate attention.
Make An Appointment To See A TPOC Pediatric Orthopedist
If your child is complaining of bone, joint or muscle pain, or has suffered an injury, contact us to see a pediatric orthopedist right away.
TPOC has four offices in northern NJ and we offer walk-in hours for emergencies at our Cedar Knolls office.< Back to Blogs