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Orthopaedics and Trauma

The Discipline of Orthopaedics and Trauma teaches on, and researches, the optimal management of musculoskeletal conditions, such as bone fracture and loss, spinal pathology and joint disease.

Orthopaedics and trauma

The Discipline of Orthopaedics and Trauma takes an evidence-based approach to its teaching and research, with the goal of providing medical practitioners with the knowledge and skills to return individuals with acute and chronic musculoskeletal conditions back to full function.

The discipline primarily teaches fourth-year Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery students, and has strong connections with four major teaching hospitals: The New Royal Adelaide Hospital, The Women’s and Children’s Hospital, The Queen Elizabeth Hospital and The Lyell McEwin Hospital. It also has close, productive links with a number of private hospitals.

Wide-ranging research

Researchers in the Discipline of Orthopaedics and Trauma investigate both adult and paediatric musculoskeletal conditions, and broadly explore joint disease, spinal conditions and fractures, especially difficult-to-treat and fragility fractures.

The team’s clinical and laboratory-based research is enabled by a comprehensive skill-base within the discipline, that includes:

  • clinical orthopaedics
  • cell and molecular biology
  • biomechanics
  • gait analysis and activity monitoring
  • epidemiology
  • physiotherapy
  • statistical analysis
  • histology and histomorphometry
  • various imaging modalities, including CT, MRI, X-Ray and RSA.

Discipline researchers also collaborate widely within Adelaide, nationally and internationally. Their productive research has been strongly supported by Category 1 funding, as well as industry bodies, and has a high national and international profile.

In 2013, this sustained research excellence was recognised by the University of Adelaide through the establishment of its Centre for Orthopaedic and Trauma Research (COTR).

Seeking better fracture outcomes

Discipline members’ commitment to better outcomes for patients drives an exploration of improved surgery to repair fractures, with the goals of: improving healing; shortening time to return to function; decreasing infection; and enhancing patient wellbeing.

A major aim of the discipline’s research team is to inform the treatment and rehabilitation of fractures and improve current best practice. The work employs novel imaging techniques, and state-of-the-art gait analysis and activity monitoring to investigate the functional outcomes of new surgical methods.

Special focus on spinal cord injury

Discipline of Orthopaedics and Trauma researchers are broadly interested in all conditions affecting the spine, but have a special focus on spinal cord injury, due to its devastating consequences for affected individuals.

Discipline members are exploring ways to limit the damage caused by spinal cord injury, and seek to understand the metabolic, endocrine, vascular and other complications of spinal cord damage to better treat these patients.

Unravelling joint disease

The discipline has a long-standing research program in joint disease, investigating the causes of arthritis and studying joint replacement, including its long-term outcomes and modes of failure.

This work involves measuring the way joint replacement prostheses wear and fail, which has contributed to the development of newer, more wear-resistant bearing surfaces. In addition, the researchers’ ongoing work has been important in unravelling the biology underlying the loss of bone around joint prostheses, which is at least partly due to wear particles released from the prostheses acting on nearby cells.

Another important aspect of the joint replacement research is the investigation of joint infection. Discipline members have been particularly interested in the role of bone cells in this peri-prosthetic infection, which appear to both combat and prolong infection in the bone. They are now examining novel approaches to prevent and overcome joint infection.

Understanding the role of osteocytes

Basic science research in the Discipline of Orthopaedics and Trauma specialises in the study of osteocytes, the major cell type in human bones. Discipline researchers’ work in this field is well recognised, and explores the molecules that regulate osteocyte function and the molecules that osteocytes produce to regulate cells in bone as well as other organs, such as kidney and muscle, by acting as hormones.

An example of an osteocyte-produced molecule is sclerostin, which acts locally in the bone to negatively regulate bone formation. Discipline members are studying the biology of this important molecule, which is now a therapeutic target for bone-loss diseases, such as osteoporosis.

A second example is FGF23, a hormone produced by osteocytes in bone, which acts on the kidney to control phosphate metabolism in the body. The discipline team is working to uncover the biology of this important and intriguing molecule.

Contact us

Key contacts

Academic staff


We are located across four hospitals: the Royal Adelaide Hospital, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Lyell McEwin Hospital and Modbury Hospital.

Royal Adelaide Hospital

Level 4, Bice Building
Royal Adelaide Hospital
North Terrace, Adelaide
Phone: +61 8 8222 5563 or +61 8 8222 5621

Please note that we will be moving to the New Royal Adelaide Hospital in September 2017.

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital

Level 5B
General Building
Woodville Road
The Queen Elizabeth Hospital 
Phone: +61 8 8222 6740
Fax: +61 8 8222 6042

Lyell McEwin Hospital

Lyell McEwin Health Services
Haydown Road
Elizabeth Vale
Phone: +61 8 8182 9433
Fax: +61 8 8182 9343

Adelaide Health and Medical Sciences (AHMS) building

Level 7
Adelaide Health and Medical Sciences (AHMS) building
Corner of North Terrace and George Street