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USMLE Guide: Orthopedics


The field of orthopedics focuses on the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of musculoskeletal disorders. As a medical student preparing for the USMLE, it is essential to have a solid understanding of orthopedics. This guide aims to provide you with a concise overview of key topics in orthopedics to help you succeed in your exams.

1. Anatomy

  • Familiarize yourself with the anatomy of bones, joints, and muscles.
  • Understand the different types of bones (long, short, flat, irregular) and their characteristics.
  • Learn the major joints in the body, including their movements and associated ligaments.
  • Study the muscles, their origin, insertion, innervation, and actions.

2. Common Orthopedic Conditions


  • Understand the different types of fractures, such as transverse, oblique, comminuted, and greenstick fractures.
  • Learn how to classify fractures using systems like the AO/OTA classification.
  • Recognize the signs and symptoms of fractures, including pain, swelling, deformity, and loss of function.
  • Be familiar with the management of fractures, including reduction techniques, immobilization, and surgical intervention.


  • Understand the pathophysiology of osteoarthritis, which involves degeneration of articular cartilage.
  • Recognize the clinical features of osteoarthritis, including joint pain, stiffness, and reduced range of motion.
  • Learn about non-pharmacological and pharmacological management options for osteoarthritis.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

  • Understand the autoimmune nature of rheumatoid arthritis, characterized by chronic inflammation of synovial joints.
  • Recognize the clinical features of rheumatoid arthritis, including joint swelling, morning stiffness, and systemic symptoms.
  • Learn about the management of rheumatoid arthritis, including disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and biologic agents.

Rotator Cuff Tears

  • Understand the anatomy and function of the rotator cuff muscles (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, subscapularis).
  • Recognize the clinical features of rotator cuff tears, including shoulder pain, weakness, and limited range of motion.
  • Learn about the diagnostic modalities for rotator cuff tears, such as physical examination, imaging (MRI), and arthroscopy.
  • Familiarize yourself with the treatment options for rotator cuff tears, including conservative management and surgical repair.

Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Tears

  • Understand the anatomy and function of the ACL, which provides stability to the knee joint.
  • Recognize the common mechanisms of ACL tears, such as sports-related injuries and sudden changes in direction.
  • Learn about the clinical features of ACL tears, including knee instability, pain, and swelling.
  • Study the diagnostic modalities for ACL tears, such as physical examination, MRI, and arthroscopy.
  • Familiarize yourself with the surgical management options for ACL tears, including ACL reconstruction.

3. Orthopedic Procedures and Techniques

  • Understand the principles and techniques of closed reduction and casting for fractures.
  • Learn about the indications and techniques for surgical interventions, such as internal fixation and external fixation.
  • Familiarize yourself with joint arthroscopy and its applications in various joints.
  • Study the principles and steps involved in joint replacement surgeries, such as total hip replacement and total knee replacement.

4. Pediatric Orthopedics

  • Understand the unique considerations in pediatric orthopedics, such as growth plate injuries and congenital deformities.
  • Recognize common pediatric orthopedic conditions, such as developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH) and clubfoot.
  • Learn about the diagnostic modalities and treatment options specific to pediatric orthopedic conditions.


Orthopedics is a vast field encompassing various conditions, treatments, and surgical techniques. By mastering the anatomy, common conditions, procedures, and pediatric orthopedics, you will be well-prepared for orthopedic-related questions on the USMLE. Remember to review practice questions and seek additional resources for in-depth understanding. Good luck with your studies and future medical career!

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