A Guide to the Best Joint Replacement Surgeons & Hospitals

These criteria matter when planning for your procedure

doctor talking to female patient in hospital bed
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Joint replacement surgery is a frequently performed operation—over a million hip and knee replacements are implanted every year in the United States, and the results are typically excellent. That said, there are complications that can occur, and sometimes the results can be dramatically worse when they do.

For that reason, patients and surgeons go to great lengths to take whatever necessary steps possible to avoid complication. One step that you can take is to identify the right surgeon and the right hospital to perform your procedure. These are some criteria you can use to evaluate when choosing.

Choosing a Surgeon

There are many factors that people will use to identify a surgeon that they trust and have confidence in. One critical aspect is his or her experience. Experience is less about finding a surgeon who has been doing joint replacements for decades and more about finding a surgeon who commonly performs joint replacement surgery.

There isn't exactly a magic number to aim for, but studies have consistently shown that surgeons with a higher volume of performed surgeries under their belt yield outcomes with fewer complications. Some studies have identified cut-off numbers at 25, others 30, and others 50 surgeries per year.

You shouldn't feel reluctant to ask your surgeon about their volume. I can assure you that this is not an uncommon question, and surgeons should be perfectly comfortable sharing the stat with potential patients. Sometimes it is easier to ask your surgeon if he or she performs joint replacements every week or every month, rather than asking for the number performed annually.

Other Considerations

The number of surgical procedures that an individual performs is just one criterion that you can use to evaluate their experience. Some patients will also compare their surgeons training, their board certifications, and other factors, but these have not been shown to have as much of an impact as the volume of surgical procedures that he or she performs each year.

Traveling long distances to have a joint replacement is typically not necessary, as there are many qualified and skilled surgeons throughout the country. Furthermore, traveling long distances can make follow-up difficult, a factor that many people fail to consider.

Lastly, I always encourage people to get to know their surgeon and ensure they have a good relationship and rapport.

Choosing a Hospital

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 and cost more than hospitals who perform more than 100 replacements each year. As with surgeon 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.

Most hospitals that routinely perform joint replacement surgery also offer some type of joint replacement program that includes preoperative education and standardized protocols to ensure that patients receive the right care at the right time during and after their hospitalization.

Data You Can Use

There are ways to compare hospital outcomes from joint replacement surgery. For example, Medicare tracks hospital-related complications after hip and knee replacement, and these complication rates can be easily investigated online. Medicare's Hospital Compare website allows you to search the complication rates of more than 4,000 hospitals in the United States. Included in the searchable data is information about both hip replacement and knee replacement surgery.

While the data available is not necessarily the most recent information, it does give you a sense of how the hospital has performed over the past few years.

Certified Hospitals

The Joint Commission, the most prominent hospital certification organization, also provides a certification for centers of excellence with hip and knee replacement. In order to achieve this level of certification, hospitals must demonstrate high levels of organization around their programs for hip in the replacement.

Specifically, the Joint Commission certification is focused on ensuring there are processes and standards in place to ensure effective communication and adherence to evidence-based practices. This is one more online tool patients can use to evaluate how well a hospital is performing when it comes to hip and knee replacement.

A Word From Verywell

Choosing the right surgeon and hospital are two of the many decisions that may affect the likelihood of success after undergoing joint replacement surgery. There are many other steps that patients can take to improve their results from surgery. By understanding more about joint replacement surgery, the possible complications that can occur, and the steps that you can take to avoid these complications, you will position yourself in the best way possible to have a long-lasting, pain-free joint replacement.

It is important to understand that there is no single criteria that is most important. Rather, taking many small steps can help to improve your chances at a successful outcome. Just as you look for the right surgeon and the right hospital, you should be paying attention to your general health, keeping your weight ideal, participating in pre-operative exercises, not smoking, avoiding alcohol, and taking other steps to achieve the highest chance of a successful outcome.

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