Surgical Wait Times Canada

Surgical Wait Times  Canada

Surgical Wait Times Canada

There are two wait lists in Canadian Orthopaedics

By Terry Kane /


Wait List #1: The wait time to see an orthopaedic surgeon for the first time.

Orthopaedic surgeons depend on information in referral letters  in order to determine if you are a potential surgical candidate.

Does the referral letter from your healthcare professional communicate that (1) you’ve exhausted all non-surgical treatment options, including daily exercises for a minimum of three to six months (2) without any reduction in your pain or any improvement in your range of motion, strength or function.

Even with the worst looking x-ray or MRI, if your letter does not clearly answer this question, there is a high probability your referral may not be accepted by the surgeon’s office.   


Surgery of any kind is always the last option.

Even though Canadian surgeons are among the most highly trained and skilled in the world,  even the smallest surgery can result in complications and leave patients worse off than they were before surgery (i.e. infections, permanent stiffness, etc).

Because of the potential risks to your health, surgeons want to know that (1) you’ve exhausted all other treatment options,  (2) you’re medically healthy enough to undergo surgery and (3) are willing to accept the risks that you may be worse after surgery.   

Just because you’re accepted to see a surgeon does not mean that you will offered surgery at your appointment. Only after a surgeon has physically examined you in their office can they determine if you would benefit from surgery and when.

Bottom line – Keep moving while you wait. 

  1. By continuing treatments and doing your exercises while you wait to see a surgeon,  you may improve and avoid the need for surgery.  Don’t give up trying! 
  2. Don’t sit around and expect that you will be offered surgery.  A large percentage of patients are not offered surgery, so keep up with current treatments and exercise.
  3. You are encouraged to continue any treatments that reduce your pain and to continue your rehab exercise program everyday.


Wait List #2: The wait time between the date your surgeon offers surgery and the date you undergo surgery.

This wait list represents the  time between the date you sign the necessary paperwork agreeing to surgery and the day you actually undergo surgery.

 Example: You may wait six months to a year on wait list #1  to see a surgeon for the first time and – if you are offered surgery – you may wait an additional four to six months on wait list #2  before you undergo surgery.



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