Although most people might think of family pediatricians when asked which doctors take care of children, just about every medical specialty can be used to treat kids. However, there are a few specialties that deal with children on a more frequent basis.
Physician specialties and subspecialties are generally grouped into medicine and surgery. More than a dozen of these are pediatric subspecialties. For example, pediatric surgeons perform operations exclusively on children. Within this group, pediatric cardiothoracic surgeons limit their practice not only to children, but also to heart, lung and blood vessel surgery in children. Pediatric urologists treat urinary tract conditions in children. Pediatric hematologist-oncologists treat children with blood and other cancers such as leukemia. Neonatologists are specialized pediatricians who care for critically ill or premature babies in the first few weeks of life.
Family practice doctors see people of all ages, including children. A family practitioner provides wellness checkups, immunizations and other routine care. She might also care for newborns. Like pediatrics, family medicine has some subspecialties, including adolescent medicine and sports medicine. The family practitioner who specializes in adolescent medicine usually sees preteens and teens to about the age of 18, while sports medicine specialists typically see people of all ages, including children and teens.
Some psychiatrists specialize in child and adolescent psychiatry. These doctors bring the dual perspective of medicine and psychotherapy to the treatment of children with mental illness and behavioral disorders. In addition to psychotherapy, which is practiced by other mental health professionals, the psychiatrist adds medication management to the course of treatment. He can also use blood and other diagnostic tests to determine whether physical illnesses are contributing to a child's behavior. Child psychiatrists receive additional training in diseases that appear in childhood, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, developmental disorders and conduct disorder.
Although some orthopedic surgeons specialize in pediatrics, most treat people of all ages. Physicians who work in the field of rehabilitation medicine might see a child or adolescent with a spinal cord injury. Radiologists interpret X-rays for patients of all ages -- although some radiologists specialize in pediatric radiology -- and general surgeons perform surgeries on children as well as adults. Anesthesiologists administer anesthesia when a child needs surgery. Neurologists can limit their practice to children or see both children and adults.