Subspecialty Careers: Rheumatology
From the Greek word rheuma, "that which flows as a river or stream." In ancient medical writings, "rheuma" was used to describe any thin discharge from a body surface or orifice. This term was eventually applied to an infection of the joints, presumably because an effusion of the joint space marks the various forms of arthritis.
Rheumatology deals with the prevention, diagnosis, and management of crystalline diseases, systemic rheumatic diseases, spondyloarthropathies, vasculitis, inflammatory muscle disease, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, recreational sports injury, soft-tissue diseases and trauma. The goal of the rheumatologist is the early diagnosis and treatment of these conditions to prevent disability and death.
Important procedural skills include diagnostic and therapeutic joint aspiration, and joint and soft tissue injection of corticosteroids. Rheumatologists are expert in the interpretation of joint fluid analysis, including crystal identification, and the interpretation of serology associated with rheumatological disorders.
Rheumatology fellowship training requires two years of accredited training beyond general internal medicine residency. Of the two years, a minimum of 12 months must include clinical training in the diagnosis and management of a broad spectrum of medical diseases. Dual certification in Rheumatology and Allergy and Immunology requires a minimum of three years of training which must include (a) at least 12 months full-time clinical rheumatology, (b) weekly attendance for 18 consecutive months in a rheumatology ambulatory care program which must include continuity of patient care, and (c) at least 18 months of full-time allergy and immunology.
The American Board of Internal Medicine ABIM offers certification in Rheumatology. Dual certification in Rheumatology and Allergy and Immunology requires completion of the entire three-year program.
For the 2011-2012 academic year, there were 112 ACGME-accredited training programs in Rheumatology with 424 active training positions.
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