Hernia Specialist vs a Typical Doctor

Hernia Specialist vs a Typical Doctor

There are thousands of doctors for you to choose from, but you deserve more than just a typical doctor. You deserve a specialist. Because you’re unique, you deserve highly individualized treatment and that can only be provided by a specialist that has extensive training and mastery of a specific set of skills.

We live in a world of increasing specialization. New information is discovered in every field and it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain a level of expertise without specializing. Patients who have a total shoulder arthroplasty or hemiarthroplasty performed by a high-volume surgeon or in a high-volume hospital are more likely to have a better outcome [3].

The field of orthopedic surgery is no exception. Though orthopedic surgery is itself a specialty field, many orthopedists choose to complete additional training to sub-specialize after their general training. Orthopedic subspecialty fields include musculoskeletal trauma, sports medicine, hand, spine, hernia, and shoulder and elbow. Each of these subspecialty groups produce its own expanding body of knowledge, making it difficult if not impossible for an orthopedist to stay current in multiple fields.

In addition, specialization has been shown to be beneficial because there is value in repetition for surgeons who perform a particular procedure. Practice is the repetition of an action to improve its quality. The value of practice is recognized in sports, music, and surgery.

According to researchers at the University of Washington [1], 75% of shoulder replacement surgeries are performed by a surgeon who does only one or two of these procedures per year. They conclude that patients may be better served by a surgeon who sees a large volume of shoulder surgery cases, because the number of times a surgical procedure is performed may have a bearing on how well it is done.

Their findings are supported by researchers for other orthopedic subspecialties. In an article titled “Association between hospital and surgeon procedure volume and outcomes of total hip replacement in the United States Medicare population,” Katz et al [2] provides data supporting the concept that specialists have better outcomes. Specifically, they found that surgeons who performed over 50 hip replacements per year had half the complication rate of those who performed 10 or fewer of these procedures. It is likely that a similar effect may relate to hernia surgery.

Making the Most of Your Appointment with a Specialist

When seeing a hernia specialist for the first time, there are several things you can bring that will maximize the effectiveness of your office visit:

  • copies of any previous x-rays, MRI scans, or CT scans of your hernia; be sure to bring the films as well as the radiologists’ reports
  • a list of your current medications, including the dosages
  • copies of the operative reports and/or clinic notes for any previous hernia surgeries or treatments
  • if you have a history of hernia infection, bring copies of any recent lab results

Your primary doctor may offer to send these to the hernia specialist’s office for you. Keep in mind, though, that clinics and hospitals are often bureaucracies, and your items may be lost in the shuffle. It is always safer to hand carry your medical records and films to your appointment.

1. Hasan SS, Leith JM, Smith KL, and 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 12: 164-169, 2003.

2. Katz JN, Losina E, Barrett J, Phillips CB, Mahomed NN, Lew RA, Guadagnoli E, Harris WH, Poss R, and Baron JA. Association between hospital and surgeon procedure volume and outcomes of total hip replacement in the United States medicare population. J Bone Joint Surg Am 83-A: 1622-1629, 2001.

3. Nitin Jain, MBBS, MSPH; Ricardo Pietrobon, MD; Shawn Hocker, MD; Ulrich Guller, MD, MHS; Anoop Shankar, MBBS, MPH; Laurence D. Higgins, MD
J Bone Joint Surg Am, 2004 Mar;86(3):496-505. https://dx.doi.org/

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