Why is it important to get a second opinion for a total knee replacement?

While total knee surgery is a common procedure with a high success rate in the US, getting a second opinion is still recommended. Each surgeon has had a specific training and education, and more experience with certain procedures over others. Some surgeons embrace new technologies and methods while others are more traditional in their practice. Furthermore, you want to feel comfortable with your surgeon. Taking the additional steps to research, interview, and visit more than one doctor can pay off in the long run.

Below are three scenarios in which getting a second opinion for a total knee replacement couuld save you time, money, and medical complications.

The surgeon recommends something not appropriate for the current condition of your arthritic knee.

For example, the surgeon will recommend a total knee replacement, but only a partial knee replacement is necessary (or vice versa). Total knee surgery is far more common than partial knee surgery, but in some cases the damage to the joint is confined to a limited area and a less invasive surgery is more appropriate. By getting a second opinion, you will discover whether another doctor thinks a total knee surgery is necessary.

The surgeon installs the prosthesis poorly and it needs to be removed.

Revision surgery is necessary for up to 10% of total knee replacement patients. Revision can be due to misalignment of the prosthesis or a loose artificial joint. You can find out how many joint procedures your surgeon does each year by simply asking. On average, surgeons in the US do about 7-10 joint procedures each year. Anything higher is desirable in a surgeon; for example, 1-2 procedures in a week is good.

The surgeon has financial ties to the company that manufactures the artificial joints they recommend.

There have been reports of surgeons receiving “consulting fees” from leading artificial joint manufacturers. A surgeon’s decision to use a certain joint for total knee replacement should not be dictated by monetary gain. A surgeon is required by law to declare any such relationships.

For these reasons, it is a good idea to bring a list of questions with you to the doctor’s office. At the top of your list, you want to ask your surgeon why they recommend this procedure over others and how many they do of this procedure each year. In addition, have the surgeon give you a simple explanation of the surgery and the technique involved.

Don’t be afraid to ask your surgeon what their experience is with the procedure they recommend. This includes good and poor outcomes, infection rate, and information about the setting where the operation will take place. You also want to ask the surgeon about alternatives to the procedure, nonsurgical or otherwise. Lastly, you can ask your surgeon about the anticipated outcome of the procedure.

Different surgeons will have different ideas on how to treat your condition. There may be more than one procedure suitable for your knee and getting a second or third opinion will most likely reveal what’s best for you.

image credit: spirit-fire

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