How To Find The Best Orthopedic Surgeon
Did you know that millions of people across the U.S. break a bone each year? The most common fractures are from sports injuries, car accidents, falls or osteoporosis.
The average person fractures a bone twice during a lifetime. Chances are high you’ll need an orthopedic surgeon at some point.
Orthopedic surgeons specialize in treating the musculoskeletal system. If you break a bone, dislocate a shoulder or injure a joint, an orthopedic surgeon can help.
Some practitioners focus on spinal injuries or foot and ankle issues. Others choose specialties like pediatrics and sports medicine.
Orthopedic surgery treats degenerative diseases that affect joints, bones, ligaments, tendons, and nerves. It includes remedies for trauma, infection, and tumors.
Whether it’s a traumatic injury or chronic issue, you want the best orthopedic surgeon. Keep reading this guide for information on making the right choice.
How to Find the Best Orthopedic Surgeon
The first meeting with an orthopedic surgeon is stressful. Most visits happen because of a trauma or condition that won’t improve. Either way, you need a doctor with deep knowledge about your issue and outcomes.
When you’re in pain or lack mobility you need a skilled and respected orthopedic surgeon. The ideal surgeon is one who communicates in an open, honest way.
Follow these steps when searching for a surgeon. When you’re prepared it’s easier to narrow the field of prospects.
A doctor in orthopedic surgery spends 4 years in medical school followed by 5 years in residency. Board certification takes about 14 years.
Always verify a potential surgeon’s certification and Maintenance of Certification (MOC) status. Visit the American Board of Orthopedic Surgeons website for verification.
The HealthGrades website provides details on malpractice suits or sanctions. Check for patient mortality rates and post-surgical complications. Research both the hospital and the surgeon on HealthGrades.
A good track record is important, but so is training. Did the surgeon graduate from a reputable orthopedic training program? Check on extra training.
Fellowship training is another year of training after the usual residency. Does the surgeon sub-specialize in a certain area? Extra training determines skill level.
Get a Referral
Ask your primary doctor for a list of the best orthopedic surgeons in your area. Talk to friends, neighbors, and co-workers. Someone with experience can provide valuable insights.
Check the American Medical Association and American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons directories. You can search by specialty and location.
Beyond dates and times, availability refers to insurance coverage. Is the surgeon on your provider list? Does your insurance cover the cost of surgery?
Search your insurance portal for answers. Call your insurance provider to verify coverage for the surgeon and surgery.
Schedule an Interview
Once you narrow the field, it’s time to interview doctors. Schedule an appointment to discuss your situation.
If your condition is chronic, put together a timeline that describes your issues. It’s important to explain how the problem changed or progressed.
Bring your insurance information and any previous medical records to the appointment. For example:
- Doctor Visits
- X-rays and Imaging Results
- Previous Surgical Procedures
- Non-surgical Treatments
Be open and direct. Explain your issues in a clear, concise way. Don’t exaggerate or downplay your symptoms.
Ask how often the physician performs the surgery. What are the outcomes and complications? How will he or she treat your issues?
If you don’t like the answer, get a second opinion. Keep in mind that sometimes an answer you don’t like is the right one.
Your first meeting is your chance to gather information about procedures and personality.
When you have a chronic condition or long-term treatment, it’s important you like your surgeon. You don’t have to be best friends, but you do need to be compatible.
Surgical Versus Nonsurgical Treatment
In cases that don’t involve a trauma, most surgeons explore nonsurgical treatments.
The initial goal is to regain function without operating. Various nonsurgical treatments include:
- Anti-inflammatory Medicines
- Physical Therapy
- Cortisone Injections
- Biologic Injections
- Physical Braces
- Adaptive Equipment
In some situations, surgery is the correct course of action. But, treatment doesn’t end on the operating table.
Post-operative therapy and rehabilitation are as important as the surgery. Regaining mobility and strength depends on how hard the patient works after surgery.
Consider A Surgeon with a Subspecialty
Orthopedic conditions cover a wide array of issues. Orthopedic surgeons treat everyone from newborn babies to the elderly.
Many surgeons specialize in specific conditions, age groups, and parts of the body. Here are descriptions of some common subspecialties:
Foot and Ankle Issues
Surgeries for ankle sprains, Achilles Tendon ruptures, heel spurs, plantar fasciitis, and bunion.
Hand and Wrist Problems
Issues such as ganglion cysts, wrist tendonitis, and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Knee Pain or Injury
Problems involving ligament injuries, meniscus tears, and other causes.
Neck Problems and Pain
Pain caused by degeneration of cervical discs, whiplash, spinal stenosis, etc.
Shoulder Pain and Injury
Treatment for rotator cuff injury, dislocation, impingement syndrome, tendinosis, adhesive capsulitis, and bursitis.
Bone cancer surgery including osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, and bone metastases.
Fractures including closed, open, stress, and hip fractures.
Pain that occurs when cartilage wears down and no longer cushions bones. Problems are most common in hand, knee, hip and spine joints.
Issues arising from bones weakened by the loss of bone minerals and mass.
Treatment of common athletic injuries. Surgeons often focus on shoulder, elbow, knee, foot, ankle, and hip injuries.
Soft Tissue Injury
This specialty focuses on contusions, strains, and sprains.
Specialty in treatment for spinal problems like Scoliosis.
Lower Back Pain
Treatment for problems caused by disc herniation, spinal degeneration, overuse, and more.
It’s smart to consider a surgeon with extra experience in an area that matches your condition.
Make the Right Choice for You
Follow this guide to make your search easier. It can help you ask the right questions for an informed choice.
Choosing the best orthopedic surgeon includes finding one who helps you long-term. Don’t focus only on surgery or the initial treatment.
Discuss what happens after treatment to prevent reoccurrence of an injury or condition. It’s important to avoid making a chronic neck, spine, knee or hip condition worse.
Looking for an orthopedic surgeon in Thousand Oaks? Contact Dr. Thomas today for a free consultation.