Orthopaedic Surgeon

Orthopaedics is the branch of medicine dealing specifically with the treatment or correction of diseases or deformities of the bones, tendons and atrophied muscles. Orthopaedic surgeons are qualified doctors specializing in this field of medical treatment, using appropriate medication, often in conjunction with surgery.

Orthopaedic surgeons treat diseases such as osteoporosis, osteomyelitis, rickets, Paget Disease and osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease). They may refer patients to rheumatologists who specialise in treating patients with tendonitis, rheumatic conditions and arthritis.

Some surgeons work specifically on mending broken bones while others choose to specialise in such areas as foot and ankle orthopaedics, orthopaedic sports medicine, paediatric orthopaedics, adult reconstructive orthopaedics, musculoskeletal oncology, orthopaedic spine surgery, hand surgery and orthopaedic trauma.

An orthopaedic surgeon restores functions through surgery, due to disease or injury, to the ligaments, tendons, joints, bones, nerves and muscles, but may also use physical, medical and rehabilitative methods when necessary. They often use laser surgery to trim, or remove torn cartilage in the knee or other injured areas. Arthroscopic surgery scopes out areas for treating muscular disorders or damaged joints and is minimally invasive surgery. A surgeon commonly uses shoulder arthroplasty on shoulder fractures that are often sports-related or found on patients suffering from osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, which replaces the ball-and-socket joint.

Personal Requirements

  • patient and kind
  • scientifically minded
  • able to put patients at ease
  • ethical and professional
  • able to make quick and sound decisions under emergencies
  • willing to continue studying in order to keep up with medical advances
  • have good communication skills
  • accurate and meticulous
  • good coordination

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

Compulsory Subjects: Mathematics, Physical Science
Recommended subjects: Life Sciences

  • Pass matric with a Bachelor's pass
  • Meet the admission requirements (APS) set by the university
  • All applications for admission to MBChB and Medical degrees are subject to selection.
  • Due to the limited number of spaces available, only a small percentage of applicants are admitted.

What to Study

MBChB degree at UP, UCT, UFS, Wits, US, UL, UKZN:

  • Theoretical training: 6 years
  • Student internship: 1 year
  • Internship: 2 years
  • Community Service: 1 year at an approved medical faculty.

Registration with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) is mandatory for this occupation. Registration as an Independent Medical Practitioner with the HPCSA will only be permitted once all the necessary criteria have been met.

Specialisation in Orthopaedics

To specialise in this area, a number of years of post-graduate study will be required.

Consult the HPCSA website for the most up-to-date information relating to this area of specialization. This information can be found in the various sections under the Professional Board for Medical and Dental (and medical science) professionals.
Refer to the medical faculty of the relevant university for additional information. 



  • private practice
  • hospitals and other health care facilities
  • medical schools
  • sports clinics

Further Information

Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA)
(553) of Hamilton and
Madiba Streets,
Arcadia, Pretoria
Tel: (012) 338-9300

South African Orthopaedic Association
Kellner Park
Suite 10
Bloemfontein, 9301
Tel: (051) 430-3280

Getting Started

  • obtain permission to speak to an orthopaedic surgeon about this career
  • find holiday or part-time work in a hospital or clinic
  • do a course in first aid with St John Ambulance, for example

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

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