A Pretoria Hospital Has Become a Leading Centre for General Orthopaedics
Located in Lynwood Ridge, Pretoria, the Life Wilgers Hospital is home to a unit whose skilled surgeons offer services ranging from general orthopaedics, to advanced procedures for the total replacement of damaged joints in the hip, the knee, and the shoulder. While it is the latter procedures that tend to attract rather more of the limelight, given their remarkable impact on the patient, although those that fall into the former category may seem less spectacular, they are certainly no less important, and are just as dependent upon the skills and experience of the attending medical professionals to ensure their success.
The name of this speciality derives from the Greek words “orthos” and “paidion”, which literally translate as “straight child” and was first applied to the attempts by doctors to correct spinal curvature in children. However, from Perth to Panama, and even in Pretoria, when applied in a general sense, orthopaedics refers to the care and treatment of patients affected by disorders of the musculoskeletal system.
In practice, although the role of the specialists who are engaged in this particular sub-discipline will frequently include surgery, about half of their time will normally be spent in administering non-surgical treatments. Typically, these will be devoted to the management of injuries and diseases involving the bones, joints, and the associated muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
The reduction and splinting of fractures can be traced back to a time long before the establishment of any clinic in Pretoria able to undertake general orthopaedics. The ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks were all skilled in the art of treating fractured and dislocated limbs, as well as sprains; their experience having been gained largely on the all too numerous battlefields that were the hallmark of their era.
In an interesting parallel, it was the injured who were returning from the two world wars of the early 20th century that were to stimulate the rapid growth and extensive transformation of this particular sub-discipline. It terminated any residual role still played by layman bonesetters, and led to the development of the more sophisticated surgical and medical procedures that are now undertaken routinely in Pretoria and all major cities by practitioners qualified in general orthopaedics.
Many of them, like Dr Jan de Vos, a senior consultant at the Life Wilgers Hospital, are also qualified to undertake the techniques known as arthroscopy and arthroplasty. The former is an exploratory procedure that also has a number of keyhole surgical applications, while the latter involves the partial or total replacement of a diseased or damaged joint with a functioning prosthesis. The prostheses are made of a durable metal, such as stainless steel or titanium, while some parts may be created from a suitably tough ceramic material or, more recently, from the polymer known as highly cross-linked polyethylene.
In Pretoria, the Life Wilgers Hospital caters for general orthopaedics, as well as offering the more advanced procedures that together make up the overall discipline. The combination of a state-of-the-art surgical facility and a well-qualified team with extensive experience in all aspects of the treatment of bones and joints has earned the clinic an enviable reputation which, in turn, has led to it becoming a preferred destination for referrals not just for many practitioners within South Africa, but also among those in a growing number of overseas countries.
Whether in Pretoria or elsewhere, it is important never to underestimate the importance of general orthopaedics. It may surprise you to learn that, just under a century ago, the death rate subsequent to a fractured femur was as high as 87%. Today, such fatalities are virtually unknown, as are deformities resulting from improper treatment. In the orthopaedic unit of the Life Wilgers Hospital, the benchmark for this extensive and important discipline is and always will be nothing less than excellence.