Two years have passed since the ribbon was officially cut on the Wickenburg Community Hospital Diagnostic and Surgical Center.
Orthopedic surgeon Mitch Wagner, MD, who has been there from the start, said he is pleased with the number of patients the center has been able to serve and the rural atmosphere at WCH.
Wagner is an orthopedic surgeon with an office in the WCH Art & Gail Ditto Specialty Clinic – across the street from the surgical center. He said he enjoys serving patients with a variety of needs, and not everyone is a candidate for surgery. Wagner prefers less-invasive treatments whenever possible. When surgery is the preferred solution to a patient’s pain or lack of mobility in their knees or hips, Wagner is confident in performing the surgeries in WCH’s modern facility.
Wagner uses a stereotactic navigation system. Specializing in knee and hip surgeries, Wagner said he’s been using the technology for about five years, and he encouraged WCH to install it when the surgical center was built. Small, metalic pins are attached to corresponding bones around the joint on which the surgery is to be performed. The computer then registers those points and extrapolates the data to inform the surgeon of the best size of prosthetic and correct alignment and rotation. The images are available in real-time during the surgery. “The program makes recommendations, then we can check and correct during the surgery. It’s a way of refining what we’re doing, making subtle corrections so we get the best possible result,” Wagner said.
“A subtle difference in alignment can make a drastic change in outcome. The navigation decreases the likelihood of having issues following surgery,” Wagner said.
Wagner agreed to be the orthopedic surgeon at WCH before the center was built. He was a member of a large surgical group in the Valley and was looking for a different pace. After two years, he still believes he made the right decision. “There may be people with reservations about coming to a small hospital but we offer technology and advanced replacement that some of the big hospitals don’t offer. Patients are universally pleased with surgery, recovery and rehab.”
One of those pleased patients is longtime Wickenburg resident and high school history teacher Fred Stehr. “I have had knee problems for awhile and after hearing about Dr. Wagner, decided to use his services… “Every staff member I interacted with during this experience bent over backwards to be friendly, whilst being competent and efficient… I feel very fortunate I was able to have all the tests and both of my surgeries done here, only minutes away from home. For a town this size, we are lucky to have this quality of care. And I might mention the food is fantastic.”
Reviews like that are what make Wagner happy he is practicing in Wickenburg. “It was a great decision. I had been trudging along in Phoenix, but I’m here, offering this level of care to a community that really had nothing like this. There’s a sense of satisfaction with that, and I get to spend more time with my patients… the relationships are much more enjoyable, I get to know patients as a family and as a person.”
Since the opening two years ago, Wagner has completed more than 20 total hip replacements and more than 107 total knee surgeries.
Meanwhile, Robert Ripley, MD, completed 711 operating room procedures.
“What I like best about the surgical center and the process is I’m aloud to spend more time with my patients and their family members,” Ripley said.
Included in some of the surgeries, Dr. Lisa Erlinger performed 137 anesthesia blocks. Anesthesia blocks are used to decrease pain during and after surgery. They are more effective than pain medications through the IV. Because there is less pain, the patient will need less oral or IV pain medication, accordin to Wagner.
WCH will host an anniversary event this fall.
Originally published in the Wickenburg Sun