Orthopedic Trauma

Orthopedics This Week highlights top orthopedic trauma surgeons

Alexandra Schwartz, MD, named in top 29 orthopedic traumatologists in nation in 2012.

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Informative videos on your procedure

Register to watch brief, dynamic Emmi programs on surgical procedures related to orthopedic trauma.

UC San Diego Health System orthopedic trauma specialists treat people who have sustained musculoskeletal injuries. Common injuries include fractures, ligament tears, tendon tears and joint dislocations.

“I was aware of a crowd gathering around me. I heard voices saying: stay with us…” 

- Watch Dominique's story of harrowing traumatic injury - and the medical team that saved her.

Read More Patient Testimonials

In addition to the orthopedic trauma clinic, we operate 24/7 at the UC San Diego Health System Trauma Center. Here, orthopedic surgeons, neurosurgeons, urologists and other specialists address all injuries associated with trauma. Vascular surgeons are on-call to handle traumatic injuries to large blood vessels that threaten the viability of an injured limb. Our surgeons also work closely with plastic and microvascular surgeons, as well as infectious disease specialists to address complicated open wounds requiring soft tissue reconstruction and infections.

We collaborate with our anesthesiologists, who are able to place tiny catheters near nerves that deliver numbing medicine to allow for better postoperative pain control. Patients can go home with these catheters, often allowing for a shorter hospital stay and faster recovery.

Injuries We Treat

  • Any fracture of the shoulder (clavicle, scapula and glenoid), arm (humerus), forearm (radius and ulna), thigh (femur), lower leg (tibia, fibula), ankle, foot (talus, calcaneus, metatarsals, Lisfranc joint), and pelvis (pelvic ring fracture or dislocation, sacral fracture
  • Joint dislocations such as shoulder dislocations, hip dislocations, knee dislocations, and multi-ligament knee injuries, and foot and ankle dislocations.
  • Problems that may arise after a fracture including nonunions, malunions and deep bone infections (osteomyelitis)

Dr. Alexandra Schwarz discusses bone fractures.

Nonsurgical Treatment

Some fractures and dislocations - particularly those affecting the clavicle, scapula, humerus, wrist, hand and foot - can be treated nonsurgically. These fractures can often be healed with casts, braces or splints. We also work closely with physical therapists and occupational therapists to optimize early range of motion gains in the affected joint to prevent stiffness and weakness, and to expedite recovery.

Minimally Invasive Procedures and Techniques

External Fixation

External fixation involves the placement of pins into bone and then connecting those pins to bars on the outside of the skin. This is often temporary and used when it’s unsafe to perform definitive surgery immediately. An example is in the case of periarticular fractures (those in and around joints), where soft tissue swelling may prevent early surgery from being done due to the risk of infection. Other types of external fixators (small wire fixators) are used for certain fractures (nonunions and malunions) and bone transplant.

Intramedullary Rodding

Intramedullary rodding is commonly used for fractures of the femur and tibia. This procedure is done with small incisions and often allows patients to bear weight on the extremity soon after the surgery. The rod is placed inside the canal of the bone and then screws are placed through the rod and bone to maintain alignment of the limb. Additional casting is not needed.

Plates and Screws

Plates and screws are most often utilized when a bone break is in or near a joint, which includes certain fractures involving the shoulder, elbow, forearm, hip, knee and ankle. The bones are moved back into proper position and a plate with screws is used to hold the fracture in place until it heals. Most often, additional casting is not needed and patients are allowed to begin moving their joints soon after surgery. Our orthopedic surgeons are on the leading-edge of plating technology. We perform advanced minimally invasive plating techniques, allowing for smaller scars, less soft tissue problems and faster healing.

Read more about advances in orthopedic surgery taking place through our research and clinical trials.