Written patient education materials are one way of supporting patient empowerment. The aim of this study was to evaluate written orthopedic patient education materials (n = 25) drawn from a university hospital's electronic databank. In the absence of suitable tools for evaluation, an analytic framework was developed by a panel of nursing scientists and clinical experts. The materials were evaluated from the point of view of empowerment by their external appearance, content and instructiveness. In terms of their external appearance the materials were well prepared, but much was left to be desired with regard to contents and instructiveness. Development needs to focus on making better use of methods of visual representation, on increasing the coverage of content areas that so far have received less attention, like social, experiential, ethical and financial empowerment, and on providing a more focused perspective on the patient.