Buffalo Medical Group’s sports-loving orthopedic surgeon finds satisfaction in helping patients get moving again
By Chris Motola
Q. You specialize in sports-related injuries. What can people do to reduce their chances of suffering a sports-related injury?
A. I get this question a lot. Especially as people become older, it becomes more important to stretch. Kids and teenagers can often do anything without risking serious injury, but the older you get the less limber you are. For a lot of people who exercise most of their lives, it becomes that much more important to stretch. I also believe in not over-stressing the body in any one particular way. A lot of people say they run six days a week. That’s not a good idea. I’m one for diversifying your exercise routine so that you’re evening out the stress on your body. It leads to less risk of developing a problem.
Q. What types of employment cause orthopedic injuries?
A. Typically, those are occupational hazards like repetitive use or from poor ergonomics. That can apply to any job, even desk work if you don’t have a good ergonomic setup, like carpal tunnel. People with more labor-intensive jobs, they have to be conscious of how they’re lifting and how frequently they’re lifting. A lot of workplaces have training, but it’s important to think about ergonomics. A lot of people go to work every day just trying to find a way to get through the day but if you’re not doing it right it will eventually catch up to you.
Q. You also specialize in hip arthritis, and all ligamentous and meniscal knee injuries, and knee arthritis. What can people do to reduce their chances of other types of orthopedic injuries?
A. The weekend warrior who doesn’t participate in sports consistently but randomly will go play basketball with friends — their body isn’t in shape to handle those stressors. Those are the athletes who often get injured. Be consistent so you keep yourself in good cardiovascular health and stay strong. If you have a more consistent program than sporadic, you’re more likely to avoid acute injury.
Q. How can people reduce their risk of joint wear?
A. The most important thing about joint wear is keeping your weight under control. Carrying excessive weight leads to more likely development of arthritis and if you have arthritis, you will experience faster progression of that problem. For those with known joint problems, especially arthritis, avoid higher level impact exercises can also slow progression. I’m often advocating things like swimming, biking or elliptical machines. They’re generally less likely to lead to worsening of the problem. For those otherwise healthy, thin and don’t have health problems, some evidence suggests running is not bad for those people.
Q. What factors play into a successful orthopedic surgery?
A. From a general standpoint, you have to have the correct indication for surgery. A lot of times we don’t consider surgery unless someone has tried dedicated, conservative management and they’re still not happy where they are. After surgery, it’s important to stay within the limitation the surgeon places on you. For example, if the recommendation is to stay in a sling or limit weight-bearing exercise. It’s important to abide by these things or it can fail. Most of these orthopedic procedures require physical therapy to get motion and strength back. It’s important to follow through on that or it can lead to other problems or a poor result. Any surgery, if you don’t work on getting the motion back, you can end up with stiffness. You can get scar tissue as a natural response to surgery. A lot of surgeries, you lose strength in that limb for a while. It takes time to get that back.
Q. Many people had to delay non-necessary surgery because of COVID-19, causing back-ups at some surgical facilities. Has your practice experienced this?
A. Yes. It was tough for a lot of people for a long time because they were in pain waiting for their surgery. Although there are some more strict protocols, we’ve gone back to a full go.
Q. How close are you to catching up?
A. We finally started to catch up and get people what they need. It was tough for a while.
Q. Why did you become interested in orthopedic surgery?
A. I always liked the idea of doing something procedural where I’d be using my hands. I explored a lot of surgical subspecialties and orthopedics allowed me to treat athletes and people with joint issues. I’ve always been interested in sports. The idea of taking care of people with something functional was appealing.
Q. Why do you like working at Buffalo Medical Group?
A. It’s multispecialty. That creates an environment where our patients feel it’s a lot easier to navigate through the specialists on their care team. We’re integrated on the same electronic medical record. It eases their stress when their records will be on the system for their doctor to look at. We’ve developed a really good patient portal so we can communicate over email and messaging. It makes communication easier. A lot of people are anxious when they call their doctor’s office and are on hold. For those who take the time to learn it, they love it.
Q. What are your professional goals?
A. I want to be someone who provides top-notch care over a long period of time. I’m always thinking about that. This job can be physically and mentally demanding. I want to be available so I’m trying to keep myself driven, sharp and in shape so I can handle this for years to come.
Q. What do you like most about living in Buffalo?
A. I love Buffalo. I could have really worked anywhere. My wife is from Philly and wasn’t thrilled about moving to Buffalo, but I always wanted to be here when I finished my training. I love the four seasons and the people from Buffalo. There’s so much to do here and it’s a hidden gem. A lot of people don’t know how great of a place this is.
Name: Matthew Cavagnaro, M.D.
Position: Orthopedic surgeon at Kaleida Health’s Buffalo Medical Group
Hometown: East Amherst
Now lives in: Buffalo
Education: University at Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences
Special training: Orthopedic Surgery Residency at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, Philadelphia
Family: Wife (Patti-Anne), three sons
Hobbies: Golf, exercise and hockey.