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In orthopedics, “joint replacement specialist” typically refers to a doctor who is considered an expert in hip and knee replacements. At Sierra Pacific Orthopedics (SPOC), I, along with Dr. Paramjeet Gill and Dr. Christopher Glezos, are fellowship-trained joint replacement experts. We treat arthritic conditions that deteriorate patients’ hips or knees. Collectively with other SPOC doctors, we perform over 2,000 joint replacement procedures annually. The majority of these procedures are performed at the Fresno Surgical Hospital, a local physician-owned hospital, which is considered the gold standard venue for orthopedic care.

The success of joint replacement surgery, as in most endeavors, hinges on experience and training. You may have heard of the 10,000-hour rule, a concept popularized in Malcolm Gladwell’s blockbuster book Outliers. As he tells it, the rule goes like this: it takes 10,000 hours of rigorous practice to achieve mastery of complex skills like professional sports or violin. The 10,000-hour rule rings true with joint replacement surgery. While more than 1,000,000 surgeries are performed annually in the United States, the highest success rates come from fellowship-trained joint specialists. We have done the 10,000-hour rule and then some!

If you are considering hip or knee surgery, make sure that your specialist and hospital give you confidence in your decision-making. Typically, a specialist will perform more than 500 joint replacements annually, and the best outcomes take place at institutions with a very high volume of joint replacements, which the Hospital for Special Surgery defines as more than 1,500 annually.

There is endless information available online—some good, some not so good—covering many topics about joint replacements. While the available information is a good starting point, making an appointment with an experienced doctor is the best first step to improve your quality of life.

A specialist can give you answers to common questions, like what is bone-on-bone arthritis, what parts of a joint are actually replaced, what technologies are available, and what is hype and marketing versus what is a tried-and-true surgical technique? The terms marketers use may be confusing. What’s robotic surgery? How do computers perform surgery? Is nanotechnology used?

Technology is useful in the right hands and at the right institution. But like any technology, if used improperly, there are downsides. Expect more insight into specific tech used in joint replacement surgery in a future post.

– Matthew J. Simons, M.D.