Experience Matters

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Many people wonder how much experience matters when selecting a surgeon. Almost every advice column (including this one, 10 questions to ask your surgeon) puts surgeon experience near the top of the list. It is difficult to judge how much experience is adequate for a particular procedure. However, when it comes to shoulder replacement, there have been a few studies that try to measure how much experience is enough when evaluating a surgeon.

In the shoulder replacement literature, 75% of shoulder replacements are done by surgeons who do only 1 or 2 shoulder replacements per year. Results are better in surgeons performing at least 5 replacements per year. Results were also better at hospitals performing more than 10 replacements per year. In fact, high volume surgeons (more than 30 replacements per year) had half the complications of the low volume surgeons (less than 5 replacements per year). This held true after adjusting for hospital volume, comorbidities (other health problems), and gender.

Dr. Burns is a high volume surgeon and DePaul Health Center is a high volume center for shoulder replacements.

References, see the links below:

Hasan SS, Leith JM, Smith KL, Matsen FA 3rd. The distribution of shoulder replacement among surgeons and hospitals is significantly different than that of hip or knee replacement. J Shoulder Elbow Surg 2003;12:164-9. 

Jain N, Pietrobon R, Hocker S, Guller U, Shankar A, Higgins LD. The relationship between surgeon and hospital volume and outcomes forshoulder arthroplasty. J Bone Joint Surg Am 2004;86:496-505.

Hammond JW, Queale WS, Kim TK, McFarland EG. Surgeon experience and clinical and economic outcomes for shoulder arthroplasty J Bone Joint Surg Am 2003;85:2318-24.