Mt. Lebanon Magazine: St. Clair Recognized For Joint Replacement Program

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Bob Bodnar had his right hip replaced at St. Clair Hospital in January of 2023. By May he was back to his usual routine of walking 26 miles—the distance of a marathon run—each week.

Bodnar had been dealing with hip pain since 2018, but delayed replacement surgery until after the pandemic. He and his orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Brett Perricelli, finally decided last fall that it was time. Perricelli is section chief of orthopedics at St. Clair and a partner at South Hills Orthopaedic Surgery Associates in Bethel Park.

“I was amazed at how quickly I bounced back after the surgery,” said Bodnar, of Scott Township. “I was out of the hospital after one night, using a walker for two weeks, then a cane. By seven weeks I was doing walks of two or three miles. Since my surgery, I have fast-walked more than 780 miles without pain or problems.”

Such success stories are not unusual among the more than 800 patients who receive total joint replacements at St. Clair each year. The hospital’s consistent results are one of the reasons that it recently received advanced certification for total hip and knee replacement.

The certification comes from the Joint Commission, a national group that evaluates health care organizations and inspires them to excel in providing safe and effective care of the highest quality and value. St. Clair was certified after a thorough, on-site review of its practices and policies by members of the Joint Commission. It’s the only hospital in southwestern Pennsylvania with this certification. St. Clair had previously been named a UPMC Center of Excellence for total hip and knee replacement.

“This certification brought us to the next level, because it validates a continuity of care from the patient’s first visit to the surgeon’s office to their follow-up post-surgery,” said Perricelli. “The process of going through the certification procedure really solidified and organized everything that we do for the patient.”

“It was truly a team effort,” said Lorraine Damich, director of orthopedic service line. “All departments had to be on board, working toward the same goal. That includes nursing, pharmacy, social services, surgery, internal medicine, pain management, therapy—everyone was involved in formulating the necessary process changes to achieve this distinction.”

The new protocol meant keeping every step of the process in the loop—from the “peri-operative” phase, where the patient and surgeon consult, and the patient attends a pre-operative education class, so that they understand exactly what to expect; the procedure in the operating room; post-anesthesia care; time spent in the orthopedic unit or recovering at home; through follow-up appointments with the surgeon and pre-scheduled physical therapy appointments.

“We had monthly meetings with all departments for two years,” said Damich, “where we discussed evidence-based best practices. It was a commitment from every discipline to follow the standards and do the right thing for the patient every time.”

The on-site evaluation involved a two-day intense review of the entire program, including observation of surgical teams and all care team handoffs.

The hospital’s certification is for two years. “Once you achieve it, you’re not done,” Damich said. “There are monitors and audits in place to ensure that we continue to follow the standards and everyone’s working toward excellent patient care.

“We have a high volume of repeat total knee and hip replacement patients. That speaks volumes about the program.”

When the department received the letter announcing the certification, there was both pride and relief. “We knew we had the best program around,” said Perricelli, “but to have it recognized by an independent, outside organization—I said, ‘This is cool!’”

“We all had a huge sense of accomplishment in this joint effort, pun intended,” said Damich.

Meanwhile Bodnar remains enthusiastic about his procedure and recommends it to others. “I’m one of those people who does a ton of research before I commit to anything,” he said, “so with major surgery, you better believe I’m going to look into it.” He continues to work toward his goal of covering the equivalent of the distance around the earth at the equator: 24,901 miles. “Last night I set a time record.”


First Published December 20, 2023, 12:00am