Medical Memoirs

Lakeland Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Stuart Patterson Stays on the Cutting Edge of His Field


More than three decades since beginning practice, Dr. Stuart Patterson has gotten the upper hand on what it takes to be one of the most successful and sought out orthopedic surgery specialists in Polk County and Florida. 

Since September 1991, Patterson has helped between 2,000 and 2,500 new patients per year adjust and fix problems with bones, joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles. Although he has about seen it all, Patterson says he still finds his career to be inspiring. 

From his Lakeland office, Patterson, 62, takes some time to reflect back on an orthopedic career that was born near the shores of South Africa and into England, Canada and into the United States. Taking some time out in his office breakroom, he says he is demanding in the quality of his work and has “always tried to do the best I can” by surrounding himself with “the best people.” 

“I’ve never regretted the paths I’ve taken. In life, what starts as a career can become your life because you kind of live it 24-7. But I’ve enjoyed it.” 

In his Central Florida Orthopedic Surgery Associates office in Lakeland, Patterson works with a staff of about 13 and nurse practitioner Kelly Kreiger to keep patients treated and on the mend. 

Patterson — who got his doctor of medicine degree from the University of Cape Town Medical School, South Africa, in 1981 — opened Central Florida Orthopedic Surgery in January 2004. There, he works with patients with procedures such as microsurgery, carpal tunnel syndrome, tendon and ligament injuries, vascular disorders, replacement and reconstruction of the arthritic shoulder, elbow, wrist and hand joints, trauma and congenital hand surgery.

When he first started in Lakeland, Patterson says he was one of the first doctors to do microvascular hand surgery in Polk County. He adds he also was doing more upper extremity pediatric surgery – which he still does – but now works mostly with adults.

As for his decision to put down medical roots in Lakeland, Patterson says he figured there was a need for his services in the area and his hunch was right.

“There were 400,000 (people) in the county; you need 100,000 to support a hand surgeon. There was a need,” says Patterson, who lives with his fiancée, Sandy Hanzelka. He serves as treasurer of the Polk County Medical Association.

“There just weren’t many doctors doing that. I came from an academic setting with exposure to complex problems. I got busy really quickly.”

Patterson’s education and experience includes work in the emergency room at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, London, as a general surgical intern at The Battle Hospital, Reading, England, and as a family physician in Newfoundland, Canada. 

Among his positions following certification in orthopedic surgery from the Royal College of Surgeons of Canada in 1989, Patterson worked full time with an academic appointment at the University of Western Ontario, London, Canada, as an assistant professor of orthopedic surgery in the Hand and Upper Limb Centre before moving to Polk County in January 1999.

Among his achievements, Patterson, certified by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery, has given more than 150 presentations at local, regional, national and international meetings as well as I have authored or co-authored more than 35 peer-reviewed articles in orthopedic surgery journals. 

Patterson has also co-developed elbow, shoulder and wrist prostheses, all of which are currently marketed internationally. He says through these career accomplishments, he has been able to maintain “high-quality care” through his staff and “24-7 availability.”

“I also keep up with the latest medical technology. Medicine is constantly evolving innovation in surgery due to technology. We’re better at doing surgery, with less blood loss, better pain management and getting patients out faster,” he says. 

To help further his career, Patterson joined Dr. Bernard Morrey at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, in September 1991 for additional training in elbow reconstructive surgery. 

As for his current work, Patterson says the majority of his cases involve outpatient surgeries due to improvements in pain management with regional anesthetic helping to cut down complications.

“Most of us who have been doing this a long time know things are fast and things come and go as techniques need to be validated,” he says. 

Among his career achievements, Patterson cites being the first doctor in Polk County to do a reverse shoulder replacement, in which the normal ball-and-socket relationship of the joint is reversed, creating a more stable joint with a fixed fulcrum point of leverage.

Over the span of his career as an orthopedic doctor and surgeon, Patterson says it has been satisfying and fulfilling in terms of a professional life and the ability to use his knowledge to help others. He hopes to be able to continue his practice for at least 10 more years, if not more.

“I enjoy what I do pretty much every day, and I’d like to continue to be able to do that for as long as I’m able to,” Patterson says. 

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