Choosing a Surgeon And a Prosthesis


Nurse Director
Jun 8, 2007
The North
United Kingdom United Kingdom


When faced with the need to choose a surgeon for your joint replacement, it can be overwhelming. How do you choose? How do you know?

Well, for a start you can make a note of the questions below and then interview some surgeons to make sure you get a good one. I know friends will say to you 'Mr. X is highly/well respected in our area' or 'Mr X is the 'top' surgeon'. You might ask around and be told that those who had Mr. X do their hip or knee were delighted and found him ‘such a nice man’. Such recommendations are good but they're not everything. ALL surgeons are 'well respected' and have 'fans'. It comes with the job. But it means little if your hip is botched up and then you find others with problems popping out of the woodwork.

Another phrase often heard is that Mr X is the 'top surgeon in his field'. What field? His locality? His hospital? His state/county? In whose opinion is he top? The general public? Patients who have had good outcomes? His professional peers?

Personally, only the opinion of his professional peers would count with me as to whether a surgeon is top in his field or not since they would be the only ones capable of making such a judgement.

It's also easy to get overwhelmed by the mountain of information about different prostheses. Again, how do you choose? How do you know?

Just be aware where you are getting your information from! Manufacturers have websites to promote their own products and are therefore naturally going to emphasise the positives in their own wares and compare them with the negatives of others. Examples: "We advocate the use of ceramic because it is known that wear particles from plastic liners causes tissue reactions" or "Metal on metal creates ions." Be sure and find the fine print in any website or any article you read to see exactly WHO is presenting the information. Many times it will be someone who has a financial stake in what is written, meaning you should consider that when you evaluate the information.

US: 57,673 primary hip replacements and 87,593 primary knee replacements were carried out in 2015 according to data from the American Joint Replacement Registry 2016
UK: 104,427 primary hip replacements and 111,656 primary knee replacements were recorded in the National Joint Registry in 2016

Of these, a very tiny number have problems, statistics show less than 1% overall.

Metal on plastic has been the bench mark combination of materials since way back to the early sixties. Otherwise there is
ceramic on metal​
ceramic on plastic​
ceramic on ceramic​

Each have their own positive and negative aspects but suffice it to say that, in my opinion, choosing requires knowledge and skill and is a matter for the surgeon. All have been tried and tested over the years.

Warning: on no account accept a metal on metal hip. Use of these has been suspended since the medical profession was made aware of the issue of metallosis, a reaction to particles released by the movement of the metal on metal bearing surfaces.

As for the longevity of the prostheses, the official line is 10-15 years, professionals reckon it to be 25+. Statistics show it to be approaching 35 and maybe even more. There are many, many people walking around now, living good, productive and happy lives who had their replacements done in the 60s and 70s! There is a news report in the hip forum about a lady who had hers done in 1966! See these

Longevity of implants
Hips that have lasted 32, 40, 41 and 45 years
67½ year old - the THRs, not the patient!

When will I be "ready" to have my joint replaced?
First of all, read around the older threads here on BoneSmart and you'll see that a lot of other members have asked that very same question! Many continue to prevaricate even though they have cut back dramatically on the things that make their lives worthwhile. But ask yourself this: "Just how much more disabled do I want to be before I get that hip/knee fixed?" No one knows what's around the corner. Anything could happen. So if you wait another 5 or 10 years - you'll never get those years back.

The simple fact about joint replacement - the primary objective of the procedure - is to give you back your life, to give you back your vitality and to give you back you! You won't discover that so much as REdiscover it!

The upshot is that all hip and knee implants are pretty much tried and tested. Most have been around for years and although they have been 'redesigned' and refashioned from time to time, they are basically the same prosthesis. They have stood the test of time. What makes one operation a success and causes another to fail is mostly down to surgical skill and experience.

My advice is this:
Choose your surgeon carefully and ask him these questions
(print these off and take them with you)

1. How long have you used your current prosthesis and what are your reasons for having selected it?
2. How many hip/knee replacements (whichever is appropriate) do you do each year? (Anything over 100 is good; 200+ is better)
3. What is your infection rate? (0.5% or less is good)
4. What is your incidence of short term complications? (dislocations, wound infections)
5. What is your incidence of long term complications? (infections, loosenings, breakages of prosthesis, clicking, clunking, unidentifiable pains, need for manipulations)

Any surgeon worth his salt will not only be ready and willing to discuss these questions, but will have the figures ready to provide to you. Any hint of reluctance, offence or waffle - go find yourself another surgeon!

UK members can use the National Joint Registry
US members can use the Joint Surgeon Locator (tab at the top of the page)

Once you have found a surgeon whose responses you feel comfortable with, accept whatever prosthesis he uses as you can trust that it has a better than average track record. Though to be honest, most do anyway.

All the best in your journey to a new joint!
Last edited by a moderator:
Here are some additional questions you may want answered.

About the surgeon: (US and UK)
How long have you been specializing in knee and hip surgery?
How many replacements have you done in your career?
What brand of prosthesis do you use? Why do you use it?
In your experience, how long do the replacements last?
How many revisions have you had to do for the replacements you have done?
Why did they have to be revised?
What is your rate of short-term and long-term infection for this surgery?

Who will I see from the surgeon's office when I'm in the hospital?
It may be the surgeon every day, but if it's the weekend there may be a partner who sees you. If your surgery is done at an academic center, residents (OS in training) may be seeing you. The OS may have a PA (physician assistant) that makes rounds. Find our their names so you fee comfortable when they come by to see you.​

Approximately how many knee replacements do you do in a year?
Do you perform both TKR and PKR (for knees only)?
What is your criteria for PKR (for knees only)?
Do you perform Minimally Invasive Surgery (MIS)? If so, please define what that means, the benefits, and how it is done, how it affect the quadriceps muscle, tendons, ligaments (knees only)?
Is an automatic ice machine part of the recovery (knees only)?
Will I be on a CPM machine in the hospital? (knees only)​
If you don't prescribe one, will you help me purchase one as I understand they are
very effective? Can your staff arrange that purchase for me?​

Questions about the hospital: (US only)
What hospital will you use for this surgery?
Do they have special experience with orthopaedic surgery?

You can also check on US clinics and hospitals star rating here

Surgery and After: (mostly US)
What kind of pre-op tests do I need to do and in what time frame before surgery?
What kind of anaesthetic do you recommend and why?
What method do you use for closing sutures?
What should I expect to experience during the surgery and shortly after?
How long will I be in the hospital?
Can someone that I designate stay with me in my room after the operation? Can s/he stay the night?
How can I obtain a walker, and/or crutches for use as a walking aid once I leave the
Can your staff order these things for me and help me with insurance assistance in
getting them?​

Pain management and after care: (mostly US)
How do you manage patient pain in the hospital, especially right after the operation?
(relate stories of people who woke up to find either blocks or anesthesia not working, and experienced lag time in managing the pain)​
What pain meds do you find are most effective?
Will you prescribe refills of pain meds and for how long?
Will you provide me with adequate pain meds to take home with me?
How will I manage the pain level once I have to leave this area and return home?​

Miscellaneous questions: (mostly US)
What will be my mobility limitations following the surgery?
What kind of blood thinners will I take and for how long?
How will I take them - injection or orally?
What surgery complications should I be prepared for, and how would we deal with
Will I need to take an antibiotic after surgery? If so, what kind and for how long?
How many follow-up visits should I plan for - both right after surgery and the coming months thereafter?​

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