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from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

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Finding the Right Orthopaedic Surgeon

With so many options and sources of information, how do you find a quality orthopaedic surgeon to treat your musculoskeletal condition, injury, or disease? This article offers tips on how to search for the right doctor, including important questions to answer before scheduling an initial appointment.

Request a Referral

Your primary care doctor or primary care orthopaedist may refer you to an orthopaedic surgeon they frequently work with and trust. Request more than one name in case a recommended doctor isn't accepting new patients or there is a long wait for an appointment.

Keep in mind that some insurance plans requre you to see a surgeon within your network or a specific hospital system for your care to be covered. It is a good idea to confirm coverage with your insurance provider before calling to schedule an appointment.

Get Personal Recommendations

If you are looking for a surgeon on your own, seek recommendations from family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues. Ask questions about the doctor, staff, and office, such as:

  • Do they involve patients in treatment decisions?
  • How well do they explain things?
  • What type of personality do they have?
  • Are they responsive to questions or messages?
  • Are the nurses and support staff capable and helpful?
  • Are the clinical spaces clean and comfortable?
  • Is the office easily accessible?
  • Is it easy to schedule an appointment? How long are the wait times?
  • Were you satisfied with the care and outcome you received from this surgeon?

Hearing about firsthand experiences with a surgeon from someone you trust can help you make an informed decision about whether that surgeon is right for you.

Search Hospital or Orthopaedic Websites

Most hospitals now have "Find a Provider" tools on their websites that allow you to view physician profiles and search for specific specialists based on a number of criteria.

Many sites also included consumer (star) ratings, so you can see what other patients say about the quality of care they received. However, be cautious when reviewing star ratings; make sure the site you use is reputable and publishes only verified reviews.

You can also search for providers using orthopaedic association websites, like AAOS.org. Many subspecialty societies feature a directory of member physicians on their website.

Do Your Research

For any surgeon you are considering, it's important to look at their professional experience and expertise, including:

  • How long they have been practicing
  • Their training — are they fellowship-trained and board certified, and do they have professional designations like FAAOS that indicate a commitment to continuing education, professional development, and quality care?
  • How much experience they have treating your condition
  • How many procedures they perform each year — when it comes to orthopaedic surgery, experience makes a difference; research has shown that the more a surgeon performs a procedure, the better the outcomes tend to be
  • Surgical outcomes measures — like infection and readmission rates
  • Which hospital, hospital system, or surgical center(s) they are affiliated with
  • Where your surgery will take place — you may also want to research the facility to ensure that you feel comfortable receiving care there
  • Their involvement in research, including clinical trials, and clinical innovations (treatments they helped to develop or test)

Last Reviewed

March 2022

Contributed and/or Updated by

Thomas Ward Throckmorton, MD, FAAOS

AAOS does not endorse any treatments, procedures, products, or physicians referenced herein. This information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. Anyone seeking specific orthopaedic advice or assistance should consult his or her orthopaedic surgeon, or locate one in your area through the AAOS Find an Orthopaedist program on this website.