Finding the right knee surgeon

Knee replacements are one of the most common joint surgeries. However, that doesn’t mean that every surgeon is an expert. Knee surgery can be a life-changing step to improving your quality of life and living pain-free. Because of this, selecting the right surgeon is crucial.

Consider your surgeon’s experience

Even though knee replacements are extremely common, not all orthopedic surgeons do them routinely. Look for a surgeon who performs a higher volume of knee replacements annually. There is no cut-and-dry number or cut-off, but research has suggested that surgeons who perform more than 50 joint replacements a year have the lowest complication rates.

Why does surgery volume matter? The answer is simple: practice makes perfect. When your surgeon performs a higher volume of knee replacements, he or she is more skilled, comfortable and familiar with the procedure.

Research your surgeon’s credentials

You might think that if your surgeon is performing knee replacements, their credentials are a given. In addition to state medical licensing, you want to find a doctor who has had fellowship training in joint replacements and learned under a highly experienced orthopedic surgeon. Look for programs or fellowship credentials that say knee replacement, knee surgery, total joint reconstruction or orthopedic adult reconstruction.

Write down a list of questions

Just like your surgeon will ask you about your knee pain, you should ask the doctor about their experience. Use your first appointment or consultation to ask questions, such as:

  • How many times have you performed this specific procedure?

    Knee replacements are not a one-size-fits-all. For example, depending on the damage to your knee, a surgeon might recommend a partial or a total replacement. Your surgeon may also use minimally invasive surgery, which involves smaller incisions and a faster recovery time. Whatever procedure your surgeon recommends, you want to make sure they have experience in that specific technique.

  • What are your complication rates?

    Ideally, your surgery will involve no complications. But it’s important to ask your surgeon about their track record. Ask how many patients have experienced post-surgical infections or required second surgeries. Your doctor may even be able to connect you with former patients who can share their experiences.

  • What is the hospital’s track record?

    Just like you should ask your surgeon how many times they have performed a procedure, the hospital’s track record can also impact outcomes. Different studies use different cut-off numbers, but overall research has found that hospitals who perform less than 100 joint replacement surgeries have an increased risk of complications. While there is no set rule about volume, finding a hospital that performs 100 joint surgeries annually is a good place to start.

Get a second opinion

Choosing the right surgeon is an important decision. If you don’t feel 100% sure, don’t be afraid to consult with another surgeon for a second opinion. Ask them the same questions about their qualifications and expertise. Keep in mind: switching surgeons is not unusual and you shouldn’t worry about hurting the doctor’s feelings. At the end of the day, your confidence and comfort is the most important thing.

Want to learn more about the experience and track record of our knee surgeons or get a second opinion?

If you have questions about the skills of our orthopedic surgeons, call our nurse navigator Kathryn Harada today. Kathryn brings a passion for helping patients learn about the process and educating them on what to expect. To speak with Kathryn about your situation, call (805) 955-6233 or fill out the form below.

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Kathryn Harada, BSN, BA, RN, PHN, CNOR


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