Dr. Matthew Dietz

By Matthew J. Dietz, MD

The most satisfying part of my job is when I see joint replacement patients return to their lives: playing with their kids and grandkids, exercising, and getting back to work. Typically, I tell my patients that they should consider surgery when their arthritis affects every decision they make. At the WVU Center for Joint Replacement, we want to help you gather information to decide if total joint replacement is a good option for you.

What is total joint replacement?
This is a surgical procedure to replace worn or damaged cartilage with metal and plastic components and imitate the gliding movements of a healthy joint.

When is total joint replacement right for me?
You and your orthopaedic surgeon will discuss this decision together. X-rays and scans will determine if you are experiencing severe arthritic disease and if joint replacement could help you. However, you remain the decision maker. It is rare that I encourage a patient to have surgery. If the thought of putting on shoes and socks and getting in and out of the car causes you distress, surgery may be beneficial to you.

Is it painful?
We’ve come a long way in treating pain around joint replacement surgery, but to say there is no pain would be untrue. At WVU Medicine, we give medicine before surgery to get the jump on pain before it begins. We use a nerve block or spinal anesthetic, very similar to that used for women delivering a child. There will be discomfort at the incision site, and patients with total knee replacements have to work hard in therapy, but we do our best to keep you comfortable and safe throughout your recovery. Many of my total hip replacement patients comment that pain from their arthritic hip is completely gone the morning after surgery.

How long do I have to stay in the hospital?
Most patients only stay in the hospital one or two days. At the Center for Joint Replacement, 30% percent of patients return home within 24 hours. About 75% of our patients return home with some assistance from their family members. Some of our patients need extra assistance, so our care management team helps arrange a short stay at a rehab or skilled-nursing facility. We know you are most comfortable at home, and we try to get you there as quickly and safely as possible.

Are there a lot of risks?
With any surgery, there are inherent risks. Your surgeon and medical doctor will work with you to minimize any risks. Many patients focus on the risk of death, but it is extremely low at around 0.001%. Our biggest concerns are the risk of dislocation or infection. At the Center for Joint Replacement, we pride ourselves on minimizing the risk of infection through advanced, efficient surgical techniques. Our low infection rates are similar to other major medical centers throughout the country.

Are there any activities I should avoid after surgery?
We quickly transition patients from a walker to a cane and then off of the cane a few weeks after surgery. Patients resume their normal activities at the rate they feel comfortable with, and we encourage you to contact us if you have any questions. We usually recommend against running or repetitive jumping as it can wear out some of the parts of the joint. Heavy laborers can return to work within three months. A recent patient in his seventies was back to mowing his 4.5 acres within three weeks of surgery.

Make an appointment: 855-WVU-CARE