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Hip Surgery — Do You Need a Second Opinion?
Hip replacement surgery is a major operation that requires a long period of recovery. If you're just not sure you really need it, think about getting a second opinion first.
By Diana Rodriguez
Medically Reviewed by Niya Jones, MD, MPH
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Hip replacement surgery is an extensive operation associated with a lengthy recovery period. And while it can offer much-needed relief for people whose hip pain can't be managed with medication or physical therapy, it's not a procedure to be taken lightly. You want to alleviate your hip pain, but you also don't want to be pushed into a potentially unnecessary surgery.
"A surgeon shouldn't tell you that you should have hip surgery before you feel like you need it," explains Rochelle Rosian, MD, a rheumatologist with the Cleveland Clinic in Solon, Ohio. "If you can manage it medically with exercises and over-the-counter pain medications, you don’t need surgery yet.”
If your symptoms are not that severe or you haven't given other therapies enough of a chance, you may want to consider a second opinion before committing to surgery. When you can't function properly any more, continues Dr. Rosian, surgery is often your best treatment option. Some symptoms that signal the need for hip surgery include:
- Locking or stiffening of the hip joint
- Frequent episodes of the hip joint giving out on you
- Persistent pain that keeps you from performing normal daily activities
A second opinion may also be warranted if you're uncomfortable with the first doctor. It's important to be satisfied with the knowledge level and communication style of the surgeon, Rosian notes.
Hip Pain: How to Get a Second Opinion
Once you've determined that you'd like another opinion before you agree to hip surgery, it's time to find a doctor who is experienced and trustworthy. Use these tips as you seek out a second opinion:
- Find the name of a reputable orthopedic surgeon.Review the list you made when you first did a search for a surgeon. Ask your family doctor for the names of several trusted surgeons. Or ask friends or relatives for recommendations of surgeons with whom they've had good experiences.
- Schedule an appointment.A phone consultation isn't enough for a doctor to give you a true second opinion. You want a complete exam, review, and consultation with the second doctor for the best results and to feel comfortable with him or her.
- Send your records to the second doctor.Include the results of any imaging or other diagnostic tests that the orthopedist will need to review. Write a letter stating that you allow your current doctor's office to send your records to the second specialist.
- Make sure your health insurer will pay for the second opinion.Before you visit the new doctor, avoid any financial surprises by making sure that your insurance company will cover these additional costs.
- Don't leave everything up to the new orthopedist.Before you go for a second opinion, educate yourself on your condition and the available treatment options. Figure out if there are any therapies you haven't tried that could help your condition.
This is your hip — and your health — that you're dealing with, so you need to make the decision that's right for you. "There are a lot of people who have hip pain, but aren’t ready for hip surgery," says Rosian. Even if now is not the right time for you, that doesn't mean hip surgery can't be considered later, she says.
Take your time, talk to another expert, and educate yourself. Then you’ll be in the best possible position to make a decision.
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