The virtue of optimistic realism - expectation fulfillment predicts patient-rated global effectiveness of total hip arthroplasty. BMC Musculoskelet Disord 22, 180 (2021).

The virtue of optimistic realism – expectation fulfillment predicts patient-rated global effectiveness of total hip arthroplasty

Kästner, A., Ng Kuet Leong, V.S.C., Petzke, F. et al.


Emerging evidence highlights the importance of preoperative expectations in predicting patient-reported outcomes of orthopedic surgeries. To date, it is still a matter of controversy whether patient satisfaction can be maximized by promoting either optimistic or realistic outcome expectations before surgery. Adjusting overly optimistic outcome expectancies in favor of a more realistic outlook on the limitations of total hip arthroplasty could reduce the risk of disappointment and lead to greater satisfaction with surgery outcomes. Our prospective cohort study was aimed at comparing the relative predictive influence of baseline expectations, expectation fulfillment and symptomatic improvement on the global effectiveness of total hip arthroplasty.


Ninety patients (49 female, 41 male; mean age: 63 ± 12.87 years) fulfilled inclusion criteria and completed a comprehensive preoperative assessment comprising sociodemographic, clinical, functional and psychological phenotypes. Moreover, the strengths of preoperative expectations for improvements in eight pain-related and functional domains were recorded on a 5-point Likert-scale. At 12 months after surgery, patients were asked to rate perceived improvements in each of these domains as well as the global effectiveness of the total hip replacement on a 5-point Likert-scale. To evaluate the relative impact of preoperative expectations, symptom improvement and the fulfillment of expectations on the global effectiveness of surgery, a sequential multiple regression analysis was performed.


Compared with the actual improvement at 12-months follow-up, prior expectations had been overly optimistic in about 28% of patients for hip pain, in about 45% for walking ability and around 60% for back pain, independence in everyday life, physical exercise, general function social interactions and mental well-being. An optimistic hip pain expectation, walking ability at baseline and the fulfillment of expectations for walking ability, general function and independence in everyday life were found to independently predict global effectiveness ratings.


Positive expectation about pain and the fulfillment of expectations concerning functional domains predicted higher global effectiveness ratings. In line with many authors investigating the relationship between the fulfillment of expectations and satisfaction with medical interventions, we suggest that professionals should explicitly address their patients’ expectations during the preoperative education and consultation.

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