Is surgery really necessary?

It is initially a very unpleasant diagnosis for many patients: surgery is not only associated with certain risks and expense, but is also often associated with many concerns and worries from the patient’s point of view. Not without reason, as studies show. According to experts, every third operation performed in the orthopedic field is not necessary. Especially in the case of an affected knee or hip joint, a hasty decision is often made in favor of surgery and an artificial joint is inserted.

Often, surgery is advised on the basis of the X-ray image alone. This unsettles many patients, especially in the case of major surgery. Priv.-Doz. Dr. med. habil. Johannes Schauwecker of the Orthopedic Center Munich East (OZMO) advises therefore doubting patients in this case the second opinion of another physician to catch up. As long as this takes place with a doctor with experience in the relevant specialty, another diagnosis has many advantages. “Then it can avoid a misdiagnosis or simply clear up doubts in the patient and provide a better feeling,” says Schauwecker.

According to Schauwecker, the patient’s level of suffering is also a decisive factor in deciding whether or not surgery is necessary. If this is not yet very high and there are other, non-surgical therapy options, surgery may be unnecessary. Likewise, the age and future motion of the joint to be operated on play a role in the decision.

In accordance with the Healthcare Strengthening Act passed by the German Bundestag in 2015, every patient now has the right to have all the results and documents of his or her initial findings published. With these results, the patient can then go to another specialist to get a second opinion without having to go through all the exams again. The right to a second opinion, however, only applies to procedures that can be planned and are volume-intensive. This refers to operations, the number of which is increasing noticeably in Germany and for which it cannot be ruled out that financial motives are behind the recommendation for an operation. In the field of orthopedics, a patient mostly has the right to a second opinion in the case of back, knee and hip surgeries.