Lower your risk of complications with total joint replacement surgery by picking the right surgeon

Lower your risk of complications with total joint replacement surgery by picking the right surgeon 1024 535 Best Practice Health TV

In 2020 Jeffrey Katz, an epidemiologist at Harvard, made a shocking discovery that in retrospect should not have been surprising at all.

Here is what they did. Dr. Katz and his colleagues analyzed over fifty-eight-thousand records from the Medicare system regarding people who had total hip replacement. Dr. Katz and his team found that more than half of all the hip replacement surgeries in this country were done by surgeons who did less than 10 new hips a year. That is less than once a month. The team had the data, so they analyzed the rates of complications like the need for revision, dislocation, and even death.

The shocking part was that these low volume surgeons had more than double the rate of complications. So, low volume surgeons have double the rate of complications, and they do most of the procedure. It reminds me of that old joke about a restaurant: the food was terrible, and the portions were so small! Dr. Katz and his colleagues did their part and wrote up their findings which were published in the very prestigious Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery in America in 2001. Mission accomplished, right?

Wrong. Over twenty years later Dr. Carolos Higuera Rueda MD and his team at the Cleveland Clinic picked up the baton from Katz and company. They performed a similar review of the Medicare care data. Unbelievably, 20 years later things are even worse. The team from Ohio found again that low volume surgeons have higher complications; however, these days most joint replacement surgeries are done by orthopedic surgeons with less-than-optimal experience.

When will we ever learn?

At the very beginning of this article, I said that Dr. Katz had discovered something shocking that should not even have been surprising. Everyone thinks their doctor is the greatest. However, if you think about it, anyone will agree that you get better at something as you practice. Surgeons are people too! They get better with practice.

Yet most surgeries are done by legacy orthopedic surgeons with higher complication rates. Something needs to be done. To help people find the right total joint replacement surgeon use this checklist:

Or call us for help in finding a 5* surgeon who accepts your insurance near you.