Shoulder Pain and Injury Illustration - © Agility Orthopedics

Top Ten Tips for Choosing the Right Orthopedic Surgeon

When it comes to your health, there is no greater fear than selecting the right provider for the care of you or a family member. Unfortunately, when you find yourself in need of an orthopedic surgeon, you often feel pressed for time to pick the right person. This doesn’t have to be a lengthy process as long as you are asking the right questions.

Here are ten things to consider while researching orthopedic surgeons:

  1. Referrals: Getting a personal recommendation from a trusted source like your primary care physician, family member or trusted friend is highly valuable.
  2. Credentials, education, training, and degrees: Information about a surgeon’s credentials should be readily available from their website. Some things to consider are researching the difference between a medical doctor (M.D.) and a doctor of osteopathy (D.O.). If your issue involves the foot or ankle, research the difference between a foot and ankle orthopedic surgeon and a podiatrist.
  3. Specialty areas and areas of expertise: Some orthopedic surgeons have completed a residency in general orthopedic while others have further specialized in a particular area. Fellowship-trained surgeons complete an additional year of training in a sub-specialty such as foot and ankle or shoulder. These surgeons are able to care for all general orthopedic issues as well as very specific issues within their particular fellowship area.
  4. Insurance coverage: When it comes to paying for medical care, it is essential to understand costs and benefits. If you rely on medical insurance to cover your health costs, as most people do, this is a key area to research before setting up an appointment. Make sure to check the website of your desired orthopedic surgeon or call the support staff to inquire about coverage.
  5. Patient satisfaction reviews: Patient satisfaction reviews can be very helpful when selecting an orthopedic surgeon. Just as with personal referrals, these ratings and surveys can provide insight into the level of care you could be receiving. Read these reviews with caution, however. Consider the motives of the reviewers and always consider trusted sources over anonymous reviews.
  6. New technologies, approaches, devices: Does this surgeon use the most cutting edge, advanced forms of treatment? Education and training are the foundation for a successful surgeon but without continued training, even the most talented surgeon could be lacking in advanced approaches. Consult each surgeon’s website to investigate their utilization of the latest approaches and technology in the operating room.
  7. Experience with your particular injury/symptoms: How many cases has this doctor treated? What is the success rate for various treatments to your specific issue? Don’t hesitate calling and talking to the support staff or the surgeon about their experience with your individual needs.
  8. Office staff, location and atmosphere: Finding friendly, knowledgeable staff that responds quickly and addresses your needs and concerns is paramount. You should feel welcomed and valued from your first interaction to your last. Research the location, accessibility and convenience of the office and surgery center. Finding an orthopedic surgeon near you is preferable, however, don’t value distance from home over other considerations such as experience and personal referral.
  9. What are my expectations/desired outcomes? When selecting the right orthopedic surgeon, first consider what you are seeking to gain or resolve. Make sure to communicate your specific expectations when consulting with each surgeon. This will help promote a realistic assessment of your outcome and increase confidence in your selection.
  10. Where do surgeries take place? Some orthopedic surgeons operate solely at hospitals while others primarily take cases to outpatient surgery centers. Check with each surgeon about where your case would take place. Several factors including cost, duration of stay, convenience, etc. come into play when weighing one option over the other.