When planning to have hip replacement surgery, choosing the surgeon is one of the most important decisions a patient will make. A surgeon’s training and experience can have an impact on a patient’s recovery and long-term results.
What should prospective hip replacement patients do when choosing an orthopedic surgeon?
1. Verify a Surgeon’s Credentials
There are a few ways to verify a doctor’s credentials before making an appointment. These details should be available online:
Every medical doctor must be certified by their state’s medical board. Some states have websites that allow consumers to verify an individual doctor’s credentials. The Federation of State Medical Boards website DocInfo.org is another way to check a doctor’s credentials.
A doctor who has had fellowship training in hip replacement has learned to perform the surgery under the guidance of a highly experienced orthopedic surgeon. Fellowships that train hip replacement surgeons may say hip replacement, hip surgery, total joint reconstruction, or orthopedic adult reconstruction in their names.
Almost all qualified hip replacement surgeons are also members of professional organizations, such as the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons.
2. Prioritize a Surgeon’s Experience
Research shows that choosing an experienced surgeon increases the likelihood of a successful hip replacement surgery.
For example, one study 1 Katz JN et al. Association between hospital and surgeon procedure volume and outcomes of total hip replacement in the United States medicare population*. J Bone Joint Surg 83. (2001 Nov);11:1622-1629. examining data from more than 20,000 surgeries found more experienced surgeons were half as likely to need to perform a second hip replacement (revision) surgery in the first 6 months:
- Revision surgery was required 0.7% of the time when the surgery was performed by surgeons who did more than 50 hip replacements per year.
- Revision surgery was required 1.3% of the time when the surgery was performed by surgeons who did between 6 and 25 hip replacements per year.
Surgeons who do more than 50 hip replacements each year have better overall outcomes.
A surgeon’s professional web page (through a hospital or clinic) should indicate whether or not they specialize in hip replacement surgery. Look for this information and also ask follow-up questions during the in-person appointment.
3. Ask Questions
Patients are entitled to research a particular surgeon and ask the surgeon and the surgical staff questions, such as:
How many times have you performed this specific surgery?
Prospective patients are encouraged to look for a surgeon who has extensive experience with hip replacement surgery, including the specific incision location being proposed. Incisions may be made at the front, side, or back of the hip. The size and location of the incision determine the surgeon’s view of the hip joint during surgery as well as which muscles and other soft tissues get separated or cut.
Read more about Total Hip Replacement Surgical Procedure
What are your complication rates?
A surgeon should be able to answer questions about how many patients get post-surgical infections, how many patients require a second surgery, and potential long-term complications.
A prospective patient is encouraged to ask about past patients similar to them, who have similar risk profiles. For example, a patient who has diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis will want to know the complication rates of other patients with their specific condition.
Can I talk to other patients like me who have had a similar procedure?
A surgeon may have former patients who are willing to share their experiences and what to expect with the surgery. According to HIPAA guidelines, the surgeon would first need a signed consent form from a patient willing to share their experience.
4. Seek a Second Opinion
While not always necessary, it is okay to consult with another orthopedic surgeon and get a second opinion.
A second opinion is encouraged if the first orthopedic surgeon:
- Lacks experience or qualifications
- Does not explain the hip replacement procedure and recovery to your satisfaction
- Does not fully answer your questions
Be sure to ask the second surgeon all the same questions about experience and qualifications as the first. Also, remember that the second surgeon’s opinion is not necessarily the best one.
Getting a second opinion or switching surgeons is not unusual, and patients should not worry about hurting a doctor’s feelings.