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The process of training orthopaedic registrars in the technique of lower limb arthroplasty (hip & knee) requires a long learning curve. The practice of consultant supervised operating should not compromise the final outcome and patient care.

The aim of this study was to compare complication rates of lower limb arthroplasties performed by orthopaedic trainees with the national average.

We reviewed specialist registrar operating over a one year period between January 2003–January 2004 with reference to lower limb arthroplasty surgery (hip and knee replacements).

A postal questionnaire was sent to 24 specialist registrars on The Welsh Orthopaedic Higher Training Programme in confidence. Complications enquired about were:

  1. infection;

  2. deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism;

  3. dislocation.

Data obtained was analysed and individual complication rates were compared with the national United Kingdom average.

Complication rates for registrar operated patients were comparable if not lower than the national average. Outcomes after lower limb arthroplasty did not differ between consultants and trainees with regards to complications.

The authors conclude that consultant supervised lower limb arthroplasties performed by trainee orthopaedic surgeons is safe and not associated with higher complication rates as one would believe.

Correspondence should be addressed to: Léana Fourie, CEO SAOA, PO Box 12918, Brandhof 9324 South Africa.