How to Choose An Orthopaedic Specialist

September 2, 2015

By: Kathleen A. Hogan, MD

Everyday when you get out of bed, your knees crack. They hurt when you go up and down stairs. You have tried taking ibuprofen and tylenol but that no longer seems to work. You mention your knee pain to your primary care doctor who gets X-rays and tells you that you have arthritis and recommends that you see an orthopaedic surgeon. But now what? Who do you go see? How do you know who is “the best” doctor for you? This article will help you understand how to choose an orthopaedic specialist.

Recommendations, Credentials and the Internet

Your primary care doctor will likely give you recommendations on who to see. Do not be afraid to ask some questions. Why are you being sent to this doctor? Is it because that doctor works for the same hospital group or organization? Have other patients gone to this surgeon with good results? Is this doctor a specialist in this particular problem? Are they board certified and fellowship trained?

Board certification means that the doctor has passed several tests dictated by the specialty field they practice in. Most hospitals require their doctors to be board eligible or board certified. Fellowship training means that the physician has completed additional training in a certain specialty. In orthopaedics, fellowship training is available in specialties of the spine, hand, joint replacement, sports medicine, trauma, pediatrics, and oncology. Most fellowship-trained surgeons focus most of their practice on one specialty.

The internet is full of good and bad information, so be cautious about relying too much on reviews posted on the web. However, a physician’s web page can give you some basic information on the physicians credentials and specialties as well as office locations.

How to Choose the Best Orthopaedic Specialist for You

But picking the “right” surgeon for you often entails knowing more than just their resume. Friends and family members who have visited orthopaedic surgeons will often be more than happy to give you advice on which doctors they like best and why. You may find that one surgeon always runs behind in the office but spend a lot of time listening and explaining things? Another may spend less time talking and run their office more efficiently? These are helpful things your friends can tell you, that the internet can not.

Also, many of the hospitals sponsor informational seminars where you can listen to presentations on topics such as knee and hip replacement and ask questions in an informal setting. This is a great way to find out information about the surgery you may be considering and to learn more about a surgeon.

Who is the “best” orthopaedic surgeon? It is the physician who will treat you with respect, answer your questions, and make you feel comfortable with your care and treatment plan. You should never feel pushed into having surgery. With the exception of a broken bone, many orthopaedic problems such as knee and hip pain can be treated successfully without surgery. Do not be afraid to seek out a second opinion. If you do require surgery, you need to feel confident that your surgeon will take excellent care of you.