Intended for healthcare professionals


The AO Foundation fracture management courses

BMJ 2009; 338 doi: (Published 10 June 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b2276
  1. Jatinder S Kang, core training year 1 in trauma and orthopaedic surgery
  1. 1Department of Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgery, University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, Leicester Royal Infirmary, Leicester
  1. jatinder.kang{at}

Last year was the 50th anniversary of the AO Foundation (Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Osteosynthesefragen), loosely translated as the Working Group for Osteosynthesis.

The AO Foundation, founded in Switzerland in 1958, is a not for profit organisation made up of networks of surgeons who are dedicated to advancing the field of trauma and orthopaedic surgery.

Every December the AO Foundation runs courses on operative fracture management in Davos, where the foundation is based. They start with the basic “principles” courses and go up to the advanced “masters” courses.

Who are they for?

Trainee surgeons, especially those in trauma and orthopaedic surgery.

Participants are from all over the world; more than 90 countries were represented in 2007. Experience ranged from those just starting their careers—that is, foundation year 2 trainees—up to consultant level surgeons.

How are the courses structured?

The courses, which run over five days, are highly participatory, with didactic teaching as well as group discussion sessions. But everyone’s favourite session type is the practical session, of which there are many. The lectures are highly interactive and use an electronic audience response system. Like the participants, the faculty come from all over the globe.

What is covered?

From basic classification systems to principles of fracture healing and fixation. The practical sessions are run in small groups with tutors from different countries sharing their expertise and points of view. Topics range from the simple use of screws and plates to complex fixation of fractures using synthetic bone—for example, tension band wiring of an elbow, intramedullary nailing, and even applying an external fixator.

Where, when, and how much?

The Davos courses (in English) run every December. The AO Foundation has regional organisations throughout the world; AOUK is the regional branch for the United Kingdom and Ireland. The AOUK runs courses in Leeds, Basingstoke, and Dublin, as well as other centres. Another popular option is undertaking an AO Foundation course in the United States to take advantage of the sterling-dollar rate. Prices vary from £550 to £1400, depending on location and level; the AO Foundation runs courses at a loss to promote excellence in fracture management.

Top tip

The Davos courses are demanding and start sharp at 8 am and finish at 8 pm. However, a lengthy four hour “lunch” break is provided to enjoy the sights that Davos has to offer and the superb skiing facilities, being Europe’s highest altitude working city.

How do the courses help trainees?

The paucity of theatre time for junior surgeons has become more of an issue with the advent of the European Working Time Directive. Any hands-on experience, be it simulated or not, is essential for development of one’s surgical skills. The courses boast a balance of superb practical sessions backed up by relevant theory, which is essential for fracture management.


The next Davos AO Foundation courses can be booked through

The UK courses can be booked through AOUK (

The US courses can be booked through AONA (


  • Competing interests: None declared.

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