In recent years, medical advances have made orthopedic surgery a more popular and viable option for many people. More complex joint repair techniques are available now than ever before, and replacing worn out joints is more routine. Procedures are faster and less invasive than they were twenty years ago. Recovery times are shorter, complications fewer and outcomes better.
If your doctor recommends orthopedic surgery, you are not alone. In 2010, US hospitals performed 719,000 knee replacements and 332,000 hip replacements. That is in addition to thousands of partial replacements or repair jobs on knees and hips. Moreover, these are just total joint replacements done as inpatient procedures in hospitals.
Freestanding outpatient surgery centers also perform many orthopedic surgeries, from partial repairs to total replacements. The most popular procedure at these facilities is a knee surgery repairing the meniscus. In 2009, there were 342,903 of these procedures performed in surgery centers across the US. Shoulder repairs occure quite frequently, as well. In the same year, doctors performed shoulder scopes.
Knees and hips are the most frequently replaced joints, while shoulders, elbows and wrists are the most repaired. Orthopedic surgeons can do a lot to reduce joint pain and restore mobility. These advances in medical technology and procedures improve the quality of life for many people who want to live longer and more active lives. If you are experiencing pain or a lack of mobility, you may want to consider talking to an orthopedic doctor to find out what your options are.
Choosing an Orthopedic Doctor
Orthopedic surgery is a specialized area of medical practice. Orthopedic doctors concentrate their energy on bone and joint health, and often restrict their practice to only certain joints. Many orthopedic surgeons who work exclusively on hips and ankles do not deal with shoulders, for instance. This type of specialization allows these doctors to excel in their field.
An orthopedic doctor who works with leg joints might partner with another who focuses on arm joints. This way, they can handle any orthopedic issues that come through the door of their practice and still maintain their individual specialties.
Recent advances in the field of orthopedics have made surgery a popular area of practice. If your primary doctor recommends you see an orthopedic surgeon, you should have plenty to choose from. Your doctor may recommend one in particular in your area, but it is a good idea to consult multiple surgeons and choose the right one from there.
If you’ve never had orthopedic surgery before, it may be difficult to figure out which doctor is best for you. Here are some tips that will help you narrow down your choices:
No, this is not like real estate where the location can determine the value. Location in this case has to do with convenience. You may need to visit the orthopedic surgeon several times during the course of your treatment. During that time, pain, bandages and other orthopedic devices may restrict your mobility. You’ll want an orthopedic surgeon in a place that is close by, to lessen the travel burden.
If you are looking for an orthopedic surgeon, New York City is an easy place to find one. There is a large concentration of excellent medical practitioners in large metropolitan areas. Again, you’ll want to consider, however, access to the doctor’s office. Riding the subway may be cumbersome with crutches. A surgery center that is easily accessible to you via taxi might be a better choice.
Some people are inclined to search the planet for the best orthopedic surgeon and then fly halfway around the world to see him. If you live that far away from the surgeon you want to use, be sure to consider the cost and inconvenience of follow-up visits. Seeing an orthopedic doctor in New York City might only be the best option if you actually live in or near the city.
Number of Surgeries
When choosing an orthopedic surgeon in New York City, Staten Island or anywhere else, you want to consider how much experience they have. Medicine is something to be practiced, so the more surgeries a surgeon has performed, the more experience the surgeon has with his craft.
Surgery is not just about the numbers, though. How frequently a doctor performs surgeries is important, as well. Scientists discover new medical advances every day. Just because a doctor performed one hundred surgeries five years ago, doesn’t mean they is up on the latest procedures. Advances are made and practiced in the operating room. Surgery skills continue to develop through practice. When the practice stops, skills become “rusty.”
Another note, the processes of knee surgeries are from those used on hips, for example. You want to be sure the doctor you are considering currently performs the same type of surgery you require. Experience in the operating room is not useful to you unless it is specifically in the same area you need. An orthopedic surgeon who works on all types of joints and performed hundreds of surgeries is not as experienced as one who has done one hundred knee surgeries.
Training and Certification
For good reason, states require medical professionals to adhere to strict licenses. They have the ability to save and improve lives, but if they make a mistake, the outcome can be grave. You want to be sure the doctor you’re considering has the proper licenses and certifications to practice orthopedic surgery in the state where his office is located.
Hospitals also oversee the certifications of surgeons. In order to practice medicine in a hospital, the doctor needs to be granted privileges at that facility, or be on staff there. This is another way to check the credibility of the surgeon. Even a doctor who works in an outpatient surgery center should have privileges at the local hospital. There could be times when it is necessary to transfer a patient from the surgery center to the hospital, and you want to know that the doctor you are considering is welcomed at that hospital.
Training is also an ongoing activity for active surgeons. In addition to the hands on training they get performing regular operations, surgeons need to be taught the latest equipment and any new procedures that are developed. Check to see when the doctor you are considering attended a training last.
No one wants to think about what can go wrong in surgery, but it is a good idea to ask about an emergency plan. No matter how routine, surgery comes with risks, and despite all the right preparations, something could go wrong. In the event of an emergency during the surgery, you want to know what your doctor is prepared to do.
Ask the surgeon what the extent of the surgery centers capabilities are. Find out which hospital you’ll be transferred to if you require sudden medical intervention beyond their ability to provide. You want to know that the surgeon has ready answers for these questions, even though the chances of such an emergency are low.
Anesthesia used in surgery, whether local or general, affects the vital systems in your body. There is always a chance that something unforeseen could take place with your heart or lungs under anesthesia. Orthopedics is a very specialized medical practice that is nothing like cardiology. Even the best orthopedic surgeon in the world may not be able to solve a cardiac problem that arises during surgery. You want to know how quickly your surgeon can get you the help you need in case of an emergency.
Record of Outcomes
Find out how many of the procedures your intended orthopedic surgeon performs turn out well. How many of his knee replacements, for example, result in full mobility? You’ll want to know how many surgeries develop complications, how much need repeating or if any are referred out to another surgeon for follow up. This will give you some data to compare against other orthopedic surgeons.
Infection rate is also an important to research. Surgery comes with an infection risk because surgeons open the skin and insert instruments. There are many ways hospitals and surgery centers can minimize these unnecessary infections, though. Most of infection control comes down to cleanliness and sterilization protocols.
Getting an infection from your surgery or just after, while your incision is still healing, can extend your recovery time dramatically. In the extreme, an infection resulting from surgery can be life threatening. More often, an infection will keep your tissue from healing, cause additional scar tissue and slow the proper growth of muscles around your new joint.
Communication can actually be a difficult issue with medical providers, especially surgeons. What orthopedic surgeons do is extremely specialized and complex. It can be difficult for them to explain the procedure in a way that you can understand. On top of that, they may be hurried by their surgery schedule and not be able to spend enough time with you to make you feel comfortable about the procedure.
Since orthopedic surgery is generally not an emergency, you can take the time to meet the orthopedic surgeon. Staten Island, for instance, is a big market. If you meet the surgeon and don’t feel comfortable with them, there are many others to choose from.
You should choose a doctor with whom you feel comfortable. They should answer all of your questions and even repeat the answers until you understand. Even routine surgery is a big deal, and you need to understand the procedure, the risks and the potential outcome. Finding a surgeon you feel comfortable with is important.
Comparison is a strong decision-making tool. The first orthopedic surgeon you find who fits all of your criteria may not be the best one for you. The only way to know this is to meet with more than one. You want to find at least two or three orthopedic surgeons who fit your criteria and compare your meetings with each of them.
The traditional approach to medicine, the belief that the doctor is always right, has changed. Doctors are still the experts in their field, but it’s more common to question their opinions now. Since you don’t have the background and training they do in the medical profession, it’s hard for you to know who is giving you the best answer.
Using comparison, you can find the best answer through consensus. All three of the doctors you meet with might have the same knowledge and give you the same answers, but you will likely feel more comfortable with one than the others. It is important to feel comfortable with your orthopedic surgeon, trust what they tells you, can follow his advice.
Consensus can serve your decision-making in another way, too. If a doctor receives many positive reviews from his patients, they might be a good choice for you. Patient feedback is generally available online. You might also ask the doctor’s office for some references of previous patients.
An orthopedic surgeon does not have to have all positive reviews to be a good choice. Sometimes people go out of their way to complain when they’re in pain or generally unhappy. If there are bad reviews, consider what they say. Reviews about wait times in the office or the friendliness of the office staff might not be so important to you. You want to watch out for reviews that talk about negative outcomes from the surgery or mention anything about lawsuits.
It is a good idea to check a doctor’s legal history to see if they’ve ever been sued for malpractice. The threshold for malpractice is high, so it weeds out the general complainers. If they’ve had a malpractice case filed against them, chances are good there is some merit to the claim.
It’s a good sign if an orthopedic doctor’s patients like him and think highly of his work. It is an even better sign if other doctors recommend his services. Asking for a referral from your primary doctor is a good way to find the right orthopedic surgeon for you.
When it comes to specialty areas like orthopedic surgery, many general practitioners will have a couple doctors they regularly recommend. You could call some other doctor’s offices in your community and ask who they recommend for orthopedic surgery.
Another source of professional referrals would be the hospital or surgery centers in your area. Find out which surgeons have privileges at the hospital, and even ask if there are any orthopedic surgeons restricted from operating in a particular facility. Finding an orthopedic surgeon who others trust in the medical profession is a good idea.
Traditionally, doctors and especially surgeons were predominantly male due to access to education, career ambitions and social stigmas. All of that has changed now, providing another option when choosing an orthopedic surgeon.
The primary argument for choosing the gender of your doctor is personal comfort. It is important to speak openly with your doctor about everything concerning your body and your health, and sometimes people do not feel comfortable doing that with a doctor of a certain gender. Surgery on your knee may not seem like a gender-specific topic, but it may require talking with the surgeon about hormonal cycles or performance issues.
Doctors are becoming more aware of the physiological differences created by gender. Everything from bone density and development to attitude and emotionality can effect surgery outcomes and follow up healing. Regardless of whether you choose a male or female orthopedic surgeon, ask about his approach to tailoring the procedure and rehab based on your gender.
Review Insurance Coverage
Surgery is expensive no matter where and by whom you have it done. Although all of the other criteria are important when choosing an orthopedic surgeon, you cannot overlook the financial picture.
Check with your insurance company to know exactly what your benefits are. You want to limit your out-of-pocket expenses while maximizing the use of your insurance coverage. Let them guide you to the best scenario for the policy you have.
Orthopedic surgery will trigger your insurance coverage on several levels. Whether your surgery takes place in a hospital or a surgery center, inpatient or outpatient, are two big factors. Be clear on what your policy covers before deciding on a surgeon. Follow-up care will also come into play. Find out if you have coverage for a short stay in a rehabilitation facility and how many physical therapy appointment your policy will pay for.
The doctor’s office is also part of the insurance picture. Ask some questions about how they work with your insurance carrier. Find out how much they pre-bill insurance and if anything will have to be paid out of pocket and then reimbursed. Knowing that the doctor’s office has good experiences, dealing with your specific type of insurance will help you make the decision about which doctor you want to use.
Assess Your Goals
Part of choosing an orthopedic surgeon is knowing what you want to get out of the experience. Orthopedic surgery could potentially solve several different problems. It could reduce your pain, give you greater flexibility, increase your quality of life, get you back to work or improve your athletic performance.
Knowing what your specific goals are will help you choose the right orthopedic surgeon for you. When you meet potential surgeons, you should express your goals to them. You’ll want to choose an orthopedic doctor who agrees with your goals and believe they are achievable through surgery.
In order for you to be happy with the surgeon you choose, you have to know what you want to get out of the surgery. It is important that your goals align with the doctor’s goals for you.
No matter what your reason for needing an orthopedic doctor, New York City is a great place to find one. With offices in Manhattan, New Jersey and Staten Island, Regional Orthopedics brings new technology to its patients.
We are the leaders in the community offering technically advanced orthopedic procedures not usually available in the local community.
We also use advanced technology in our offices, offering efficient and accurate electronic medical record keeping. Our system allows for online registration of patients before you get to our office, and reduces wait times while improving privacy.
Contact iOrtho in the metro New York area for more information that will help you find the orthopedic doctor that is right for you.