A rheumatologist is a doctor that specializes in treating conditions of the joints, muscles, tissues, bones, and internal organs. These doctors have a strong foundation in internal medicine and treat a wide variety of musculoskeletal pain disorders.
Currently, there are less than 4,000 rheumatologists working in the United States.
Students start their study of rheumatology by attending medical school and graduating with either a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or a Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.). After medical school, doctors will complete a 3-year residency program in internal medicine. Doctors who plan to work in pediatric rheumatology will complete their residency in pediatric medicine.
Rheumatology is a specialty medicine, so after completing a residency program doctors will also complete a 2 to 3-year fellowship in rheumatology.
Doctors who want to practice pediatric rheumatology will complete a residency program in pediatrics and continue in a rheumatology fellowship.
All doctors need a medical license to practice medicine in any state in the US. These licenses are awarded by individual states, so requirements will vary from state to state. Medical licenses allow doctors to practice any type of medicine but do not signify qualification in any one area of medicine.
Rheumatologists can earn two board certifications, one in internal medicine through the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM), and one in rheumatology also through the ABIM. Board certification requires a certain professional standing and involves a lengthy written test. Rheumatologists maintain board certification through continual education programs and eventually by retaking the qualifying exams.
Where Rheumatologists Work
Rheumatologists can specialize in and treat a wide variety of conditions, and they may work out of many different settings. These doctors may work out of hospitals, outpatient clinics, and private or group practices.
How They Help People
Rheumatologists diagnose, treat, and help prevent a wide variety of musculoskeletal diseases. There are over 100 different types of musculoskeletal diseases, and often they are complex and difficult to diagnose because seemingly minor symptoms are often the start of something more serious. Currently, over 50 million Americans suffer from a rheumatic disease.
Musculoskeletal diseases usually involve pain and inflammation in the joints, along with muscle stiffness and soreness. Common rheumatic diseases include:
- Back and neck disorders
- Sjogren's syndrome
- Sports injuries
- Nerve impingements (including sciatica and carpal tunnel)
Sore muscles and joint pain can be common, everyday experiences but sometimes these symptoms point to a larger issue. Rheumatologists will assess patients by discussing family and personal medical history and by performing diagnostic tests to evaluate factors like inflammation, antibody production, and musculoskeletal abnormalities visible in imaging scans (like CT scans, ultrasounds, and MRIs).
After diagnosing the patient, rheumatologists will create a treatment plan and work with other doctors on the patient's care team to treat the patient. Rheumatic diseases often affect multiple different parts of the body, and rheumatologists may refer to other specialty doctors to create a treatment plan. Rheumatologists will also help educate their patients and families of their patients about rheumatic diseases.
Treatments for rheumatic diseases can include physical therapy, lifestyle changes, medication, or surgery. Rheumatologists will help patients manage chronic conditions and provide therapy, rehabilitation, and medication prescriptions, but they will refer to other specialists for invasive surgical treatments.
The average salary of a rheumatologist is $215,000.
Medical Negligence and Neurosurgeons
Over 50 million Americans suffer from a rheumatic disease, and many more experience symptoms of these diseases like muscle and joint pain. With so many people experiencing these symptoms, rheumatologists are often used as primary care physicians to treat patients with a variety of symptoms.
Rheumatologists certified in internal medicine see a variety of patients. Studies show that the most common malpractice claim for internist doctors is a failure to diagnose an illness, followed by improper care of a diagnosed illness, medication errors, and improper treatment procedures.
The most common malpractice claims specifically for rheumatologists are medication errors and failing to diagnose. Rheumatic diseases look similar in their early stages, but when doctors prescribe medication based on incomplete or faulty diagnostic tests or on the wrong judgment by the doctor, patients can suffer adverse reactions.
Failure to diagnose lupus is a common claim against rheumatologists. Patients suffering from untreated lupus can suffer cardiovascular issues, neurological problems, and blood clots.
Rheumatologists also face malpractice claims against alternative treatments administered to patients. These treatments can include acupuncture, herbal remedies, fish oil, and massage therapies. Treatments that lack clinical studies should be discussed with the patient and patients should be aware of the potential effectiveness of treatment plans.
Experienced Maryland Medical Malpractice Attorneys
When healthcare professionals make mistakes, patients can suffer devastating results. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury while under the care of a rheumatologist, you may be eligible for compensation.
The attorneys at Gilman & Bedigian understand the difficulties that follow a medical error. Our experienced attorneys have a track record of success in helping victims earn compensation for medical errors.
Call (800) 529-6162 today to schedule your free consultation and begin your case.