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knee pain
March 22, 2021

Don’t Delay Hip & Knee Surgery

“Hip and knee replacements represent some of the best surgical procedures health care has ever developed to improve quality of life,” said David Liebelt, M.D., PhD.

ThedaCare Orthopedic Surgeon Says Surgery Is Safe During Pandemic

APPLETON, Wis. – Chronic joint pain caused by arthritis affects one in four adults in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports, with 15 million people experiencing severe pain – that is, level 7 on a scale of 0-10. Additionally, nearly half of all adults suffering from arthritis report persistent pain.

A recent survey by Wakefield Research reported 48 percent of joint replacement patients are currently delaying surgery because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Hip and knee replacements represent some of the best surgical procedures health care has ever developed to improve quality of life,” said David Liebelt, M.D., PhD, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in hip and knee reconstruction with ThedaCare Orthopedic Care. “People might think that hip or knee replacement is something they can put off during the pandemic, but data suggests that putting it off may be worse for their health than seeking treatment.”

Dr. Liebelt noted that pain is one of the top reasons people make an appointment to see their doctor.

“Pain leads to diagnosing the cause and then solving the problem,” he said. “Severe hip and knee pain caused by degenerative changes from arthritis can cause severe morbidity in a person’s life. Their activities of daily living become compromised. They can’t do the things that make them happy, and they can’t do the things they need to do to stay healthy in other parts of their life, both physically and mentally.”

He wants people to know there is help.

Dr. David Liebelt

“Hip and knee replacement surgery offers an opportunity to solve those problems and get people back to living their best life,” he said. “However, during the pandemic, fear of leaving the house, of being around other people or entering a health care facility has caused many people to delay that care.”

Dr. Liebelt noted some people have the misconception that if they’re going to get a complete knee or hip replacement, it doesn’t matter if they delay the procedure and keep damaging their joint because the surgeon is going to replace it anyway.

“I can replace their joint, that is true,” he explained. “They’re not just damaging their joint. As they become less active, their muscles are weakening and becoming less flexible. As they become less active, patients are deconditioning themselves. When I perform the surgery, it can potentially take more time for them to get back to feeling their best because they might have impacted their overall health.”

It’s that notion of overall health that Dr. Liebelt wants patients to keep in mind.

“We want patients to be thinking about all aspects of health – your mental health, physical health, musculoskeletal health and cardiac health,” he said. “We understand the apprehension people may have experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic. As health care professionals, we know delaying health care can have serious consequences and could lead to new concerns for patients, particularly when patients have an emergency, are managing a chronic condition, in need of surgery or a preventative screening.”

Dr. Liebelt addressed another concern that he has heard from patients – the possibility of needing to spend time in a rehabilitation facility after surgery.

“Most knee and hip replacement patients are able to go home after surgery and can do rehabilitation at home with outpatient therapy,” he said. “However, those who delay surgery may need to go to a rehab facility for a while if their physical conditioning is reduced too far.”

Dr. Liebelt offered assurance that all ThedaCare facilities are safe places to seek care.

“We want people to know ThedaCare is taking necessary precautions to keep patients and team members safe in all areas of care,” he said. “No matter your concern, there’s no need to delay. We are pursuing and delivering outstanding care, taking every safety precaution.”

Safety precautions include:

  • Proper use of PPE.
  • Requiring everyone who enters a ThedaCare facility to wear a mask throughout their entire visit.
  • Enforcing social distancing throughout our facilities.
  • Clinics and hospitals — including waiting rooms and registration — have been rearranged to ensure proper physical distancing between patients and staff at all times.
  • Respiratory care clinics have been designated to isolate and provide care for COVID-19 patients, apart from other procedures and services.
  • High-touch surfaces throughout our buildings are being cleaned more frequently and thoroughly than even before.
  • Exam rooms are disinfected after every patient.

“We understand that patients may be delaying needed health care due to fear and anxiety about COVID-19,” Dr. Liebelt said. “Please know that we are here to provide the best care possible, keeping our patients, families and communities, safe.”

About ThedaCare

For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health of the communities it serves in northeast and central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to more than 600,000 residents in 18 counties and employs approximately 7,000 health care professionals. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including seven hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in Population Health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their best lives through easy access to individualized care, supporting each person’s own health and wellbeing. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand unique needs, finding solutions together, and encouraging health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care

Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health system with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs, as well as primary care.

For more information, visit or follow ThedaCare on social media. Members of the media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public and Media Relations Consultant at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.