The Characteristics of Surgeons Performing Total Shoulder Arthroplasty: Volume Consistency, Training, and Specialization

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With the adoption of reverse shoulder arthroplasty, utilization of total shoulder arthroplasty (TSA) has increased substantially over the last decade.1–3 Such increases are likely secondary to an aging population, increased comfort with the procedure, and the adoption of broadened indications for reverse shoulder arthroplasty, especially in the setting of proximal humerus fractures in the elderly.4–7 Between 2012 and 2014 alone, the number of surgeons performing >10 TSA in Medicare patients annually increased by 28.6% (824 to 1060 surgeons) providing a 26.6% (20,824-26,365 procedures) increase in national volume in the Medicare population.2 With this boom in utilization, scrutiny of this now routine procedure and those performing it is necessary.

Prior reviews have demonstrated a strong link between surgeon and hospital TSA volume and outcomes of the procedure.8–10 Somerson and colleagues11 investigated fellowship training among surgeons performing TSA in 2012 and found that only 28% had completed a shoulder and elbow fellowship. In addition to prior analyses2, 12, Somerson and colleagues confirmed a persistent geographic variation in utilization of TSA.11 In conjunction with the evolution of shoulder arthroplasty, dedicated shoulder and elbow fellowship training has expanded. With a shift toward specialization in care, nearly 90% of orthopedic surgery residents plan to pursue shoulder and elbow fellowships, comprising 4.6% of (42/897) of available positions.13

What remains unknown is the specialization of surgeons performing TSA, the regularity of their arthroplasty volume, and trends in TSA specialization over time. Therefore, this study aims to (a) identify surgeons performing shoulder arthroplasty and cohort changes over time, (b) determine the case profile of surgeons consistently performing shoulder arthroplasty, and (c) establish the characteristics of shoulder arthroplasty surgeons with a specific focus on fellowship training.


Prior to collecting surgeon-specific data, we identified surgeons performing TSA through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ public release of “Medicare Provider Utilization and Payment Data: Physician and Other Supplier.”14 Datasets from 2012, 2013, and 2014 were used to identify all surgeons performing >10 TSAs (Current Procedural Terminology [CPT] Code 23472) during at least 1 of those years. This dataset provides the name, identification number, address, and all billing (by volume) for each unique CPT code submitted ≥10 times in a calendar year.

Once the cohort of surgeons had been generated, the number of surgeons consistently performing TSA year-over-year was determined. This allowed for an analysis of the consistency with which surgeons are performing moderate- to high-volume TSA. To form a case profile of surgeons performing TSA and observe how this shifted over time, a count and a description of each CPT code submitted by each surgeon was identified. To maintain patient privacy, only those claims made >10 times are reported for a provider (both physicians and physician-extenders are included in this dataset). First, all CPT codes were reviewed and tagged as surgical or non-surgical events. Then, every procedural CPT code identified was reviewed and categorized based upon anatomic location and procedure (eg, total knee arthroplasty [TKA]). It is important to note that all claims in this dataset are limited to those patients participating in Medicare’s fee-for-service program.

Specialization was defined as the number of categorized procedures as a percentage of all procedures performed on Medicare patients. The trends for national, regional, and individual specialization of TSA, arthroplasty (major joint), and shoulder procedures were determined.

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