The medical management of arthritis and joint degeneration may be handled by a family doctor, an internist, or a rheumatologist. However, when medical management is not effective, an orthopaedic surgeon should be consulted to determine if surgery is an option. In some cases, the orthopaedic surgeon may be the first physician to see a patient and make the diagnosis of arthritis.
The Orthopaedic Evaluation
While every orthopaedic evaluation is different, there are many commonly used tests that an orthopaedic surgeon may consider in evaluating a patient’s condition. In general, the orthopaedic evaluation usually consists of:
A medical history is taken to assist the orthopaedic surgeon in evaluating your overall health and the possible causes of your joint pain.
What the physician sees during the physical examination, which includes standing posture, gait analysis (watching how you walk), sitting down, and lying down, helps confirm (or rule out) the possible diagnosis. The physical exam will also enable the orthopaedic surgeon to evaluate other important aspects of your hips and legs, including:
If you are experiencing pain in your hip joint, your back may be examined because hip pain may actually be the result of problems in the lower spine.
After the physical examination, X-ray evaluation is usually the next step in making the diagnosis. The X-rays help
show how much joint damage or deformity exists. An abnormal X-ray may reveal:
Occasionally, additional tests may be needed to confirm the diagnosis. Laboratory testing of your blood, urine, or joint fluid can be helpful in identifying specific types of arthritis and in ruling out certain diseases. Specialized X-rays of the back can help confirm that hip pain isn’t being caused by a back problem. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or a bone scan may be needed to determine the condition of the bone and soft tissues of the affected joint.
In order to assist the orthopaedic surgeon in making a diagnosis, it may be helpful to write down your answers to the following questions before the appointment: