During the second half of the twentieth century, the specialty of orthopaedic surgery has completed its evolution out of general surgery and into its own maturing specialty with multiple subspecialties. The practice of orthopaedics has never been more exciting. We continuously discover new ways to relieve the burden of pain and to restore function for our patients. More research is being done than ever before, and we are answering both basic epidemiological questions as well as complicated questions, such as those about the pain response at the molecular level. We are beginning to genetically engineer repair processes that may eventually alter the aging of our joints and intervertebral discs. As these technologies further our treatments of musculoskeletal disorders, the orthopaedic operations of yesterday are replaced with newer, less invasive, and more sophisticated procedures—some of which may not actually require surgery or surgeons. In fact, advances in molecular biology and gene therapy may prevent certain musculoskeletal conditions from ever reaching the point of requiring a surgical procedure. This evolution, driven by technology, will present fundamental challenges to orthopaedics as a specialty. In an era of subspecialization, the leadership of the American Orthopaedic Association thought it wise to stop and reflect on this evolution and to be proactive in defining the future of the specialty of orthopaedics rather than letting the specialty be a victim of the future as we have seen in some other areas of medicine.
New Technology Drives Change in Orthopaedics
Because of new technology and the manner in which it is being tested and introduced to society, our profession and our specialty and subspecialties are being compromised. Industry's marketing of innovations directly to the public may be subtly (or not so subtly) reshaping our training programs and our practices for the future. Are we satisfied that corporate America has our patients and our best …
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