Finding the right knee surgeon

How to find the right orthopedic surgeon for your knee replacement

A knee replacement can offer a life-changing solution to ongoing pain or a debilitating injury. So, selecting the right surgeon is one of the most important decisions you can make. Having a well-experienced surgeon increases the likelihood of a successful surgery.

Research your surgeon’s credentials and training

In addition to medical licensing in the state, it is important to find a doctor who has had fellowship training in knee replacement and has learned to perform the surgery under the guidance of a highly experienced orthopedic surgeon. Look for fellowships that say knee replacement, knee surgery, total joint reconstruction or orthopedic adult reconstruction in their names.

Consider your surgeon’s experience

Knee joint replacement is one of the most common and successful orthopedic surgeries available. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make it a routine one for every orthopedic surgeon.

Studies have consistently shown that surgeons with a higher volume of performed surgeries under their belt yield outcomes with fewer complications. While different studies use different cut-off points, one research study suggests that surgeons who do more than 50 knee joint replacements a year have the lowest complication rates.

The reason you want a high-volume orthopedic surgeon is simple: practice makes perfect. With high volume, the surgeon is skilled and comfortable performing a procedure due to their familiarity with it and frequency performing it.

Ask questions

You are entitled to research a surgeon you are potentially considering by asking lots of questions such as:

How many times have you performed this specific surgery?

We encourage you to look for a surgeon who has extensive experience in performing knee replacement surgery, including the specific procedure being proposed for you. Again, practice makes perfect, so the more volume a surgeon has, the higher likelihood their patients have more successful outcomes.

What are your complication rates?

Your surgeon should be able to answer questions about how many patients got post-surgical infections and how many patients required a second surgery or had potential long-term complications. Ask your surgeon to connect you with former patients who underwent the same procedure who are willing to share their experiences and shed light on what to expect before, during and after surgery.

What is the hospital’s track record

Much like a surgeon’s experience is important, a hospital’s experience has also been shown to be a critical factor. Studies show that hospitals that perform fewer than 100 joint replacement surgical procedures annually have higher complication rates. As with a surgeon’s experience, there is no magic number and some studies use different cut-offs, but looking for a hospital that performs at least 100 joint replacements annually is a good starting point.

If still not satisfied, get a second opinion

Given the importance of this decision, if you aren’t 100% confident in the surgeon or the hospital you are considering, get a second opinion. Ask the same questions about experience and qualifications. Keep in mind that switching surgeons is not unusual and you shouldn’t worry about hurting a doctor’s feelings.

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 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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