Orthopaedic surgery or orthopaedics (sometimes spelled orthopedic surgery and orthopedics) is the branch of surgery concerned with conditions involving the musculoskeletal system. Orthopaedic surgeons use both surgical and nonsurgical means to treat musculoskeletal trauma, sports injuries, degenerative diseases, infections, tumors, and congenital disorders.
Nicholas Andry coined the word “orthopaedics” in French as orthopédie, derived from the Greek words orthos (“correct”, “straight”) and paidion (“child”), when he published Orthopedie (translated as Orthopaedia: or the Art of Correcting and Preventing Deformities in Children) in 1741. Though as the name implies it was initially developed with attention to children, the correction of spinal and bony deformities in all stages of life eventually became the cornerstone of orthopedic practice.
Many developments in orthopedic surgery resulted from experiences during wartime. On the battlefields of the Middle Ages the injured were treated with bandages soaked in horses’ blood which dried to form a stiff, but unsanitary, splint.
Originally, orthopedic surgery was restricted to the correcting of musculoskeletal deformities in children. Nicolas Andry, a French professor at the University of Paris coined the term in the first textbook written on the subject in 1741. He advocated the use of exercise, manipulation and splinting to treat deformities in children.
Jean-André Venel established the first orthopedic institute in 1780, which was the first hospital dedicated to the treatment of children’s skeletal deformities. He developed the club-foot shoe for children born with foot deformities and various methods to treat curvature of the spine.
Advances made in surgical technique during the 18th century, such as John Hunter’s research on tendon healing and Percival Pott’s work on spinal deformity steadily increased the range of new methods available for effective treatment. Antonius Mathijsen, a Dutch military surgeon, invented the plaster of Paris cast in 1851. However, up until the 1890s, orthopedics was still a study limited to the correction of deformity in children.