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A Brief History of Orthopedics

The Origin of the Word: Orthopedics vs. Orthopaedics

Nicholas Andry coined the word "orthopaedics", derived from Greek words for "correct" or "straight" ("orthos") and "child" ("paidion"), in 1741, when at the age of 81 he published Orthopaedia: or the Art of Correcting and Preventing Deformities in Children.

In the U.S. the spelling orthopedics is standard, although the majority of university and residency programs, and even the AAOS, still use Andry's spelling. Elsewhere, usage is not uniform. In Canada, both spellings are common. "Orthopaedics" usually prevails in the rest of the Commonwealth, especially in Britain.

Ancient History of Orthopedics

In Eqypt, splints have been found on mummies made of bamboo, reeds, wood, or bark, and padded with linen. In ancient Greece, the works of Hippocrates detail the treatment for dislocations of the shoulders, knees, and hips, as well as treatments for infections resulting from compound fractures.

During the rise of Rome, Galen (129-199 BC), a Greek, became a gladiatorial surgeon. His learning helped provide the best care possible for the Roman army. He is often referred to as the father of modern medicine, and many of his techniques and teachings were standard throughout the Middle Ages. He studied the skeleton and the muscles that move it. He studied the relationship of the brain's response from the nerves to the muscles.

The Early Modern History

Jean-Andre Venel established the first orthopedic institute in 1780, which was the first hospital dedicated to the treatment of children's skeletal deformities. He is considered by some to be the father of orthopedics or the first true orthopedist in consideration of the establishment of his hospital and for his published methods.

Antonius Mathysen, a Dutch military surgeon, invented the plaster of Paris cast in 1851.

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. Traction and splinting developed during World War I. Since WWII, treatments have evolved to include joint replacements, arthroscopy, and a whole host of technologies.

For more extensive information on the modern era of orthopaedics, see the Wikipedia article this information is derived from.