Provider Highlight: Matthew J. Kraay, MD
February 15, 2023
Innovations in Orthopaedics | Winter 2023
After four decades and many thousands of patients, Matthew J. Kraay, MD, MS, is retiring this summer. An internationally recognized specialist in total joint replacement, joint reconstruction and arthritis surgery, his leadership has shepherded the evolution of joint surgery for nearly half a century. He currently serves as director of Joint Reconstruction and Arthritis Surgery at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center and Professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.
After moving to Cleveland in 1983 for residency training, Dr. Kraay has remained at University Hospitals throughout his distinguished career. “When I started, total joint replacement was in its relative infancy compared to today,” he says. “We had basic instruments and basic implants, and now we're employing computer navigation and robotics and discharging patients on the day of surgery — advances that we could not have imagined would one day become a reality.”
Having trained under legendary orthopaedic clinician and researcher Kingsbury G. Heiple, MD, Dr. Kraay was honored to be named the inaugural Kingsbury G. Heiple and Fred A. Lennon Professor of Orthopaedics in 2006. “Dr. Kraay has shaped joint replacement at University Hospitals into the modern, efficient program it is today,” says James Voos, MD, chair of UH Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Jack and Mary Herrick Distinguished Chair of Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine, and Charles H. Herndon Professor and Chair at School of Medicine. “He is passing on a legacy of excellence to Dr. Fitzgerald, who is well-positioned to carry us into a bright future.”
In 2021, Dr. Kraay transitioned his leadership role of 26 years as Director of the UH Joint Replacement Division to Steven Fitzgerald, MD, FAAOS. This summer, Dr. Fitzgerald, Chief of the Division of Adult Reconstruction and System Director of High Reliability Medicine for Total Joint Replacement, will take over Dr. Kraay’s remaining clinical roles at University Hospitals. “Dr. Fitzgerald trained with us during his residency and then completed a fellowship at the Mayo Clinic before joining our faculty,” says Dr. Kraay. “He is an extremely skilled surgeon, and we have made a smooth and successful transition of program leadership over the past two years. I am confident he will ensure that the joint replacement division remains at the forefront of clinical and technological innovation and patient care.”
An expert in hip and knee replacement, Dr. Fitzgerald joined University Hospitals as an attending orthopaedic surgeon in 2011 and has served in various leadership roles over the past 12 years. “Dr. Kraay has mentored me in navigating hospital administration and growing a nationally recognized joint replacement program,” says Dr. Fitzgerald. “Over his many years of service, he has laid the groundwork for our success moving forward.”
An author of 128 peer-reviewed publications and numerous book chapters, Dr. Kraay has presented at more than 100 national and international conferences. He is a past recipient of the Otto Aufranc Award from The Hip Society and the James Rand Award from The American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons. In 2013, he was elected to The Hip Society and The Knee Society. Fewer than 75 orthopaedic surgeons nationwide are members of both prestigious organizations.
Here are some of Dr. Kraay’s most rewarding career highlights.
University Hospitals/CWRU Center for Evaluation of Implant Performance
In collaboration with Clare Rimnac, PhD, Wilbert J. Austin Professor Emeritus of Engineering at Case Western Reserve University, Dr. Kraay co-founded University Hospital’s internationally recognized implant retrieval program. This unique collection of revised joint replacement implants is complemented by an expansive computerized registry of patients who have had joint replacement surgery at UH Cleveland Medical Center since 1985. Drs. Kraay and Rimnac, along with their co-investigators at Drexel University, have received over $8 million in National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding to study implant materials, implant design and modes of damage and failure.
“One of the most gratifying aspects of my career has been the opportunity to work closely with Dr. Rimnac, contributing to the science of joint replacement and improving joint replacement materials and outcomes,” says Dr. Kraay. “From the onset of this program almost 30 years ago, we have critically looked at implants that were removed from patients at the time of revision surgery and studied the material and engineering factors that impact their performance and durability — and that ultimately affect patient outcome following surgery.”
High Reliability Medicine
In 2015, Dr. Kraay launched the High Reliability Medicine Initiative for Joint Replacement to redesign and standardize joint replacement patient care across the UH system with a focus on patient safety, quality improvement and value. “That entails offering excellent patient outcomes while keeping value in mind,” says Dr. Voos. “Dr. Kraay has built a safe, reproducible orthopaedic experience that is serving the patient and standardizing the costs.”
Recognized as a top performer and past recipient of the “Joint Replacement Center of Excellence” Award for hip and knee replacement by Healthgrades, University Hospitals has also attained Advanced Certification for joint replacement by the Joint Commission. “Our high reliability medicine journey shows that when you engage care providers across multiple disciplines, apply evidence-based science and build consensus, you can do great things to improve patient safety, quality of care and value,” says Dr. Kraay.
Employer Center of Excellence
Under Dr. Kraay’s leadership, University Hospitals created a national Center of Excellence (COE) for joint replacement surgery that started in 2016. Corporations, including General Electric, Walmart, Lowes and McKesson, have been sending their employees and families to University Hospitals Employer COE for joint replacement surgery because of the program’s low rate of complications, readmissions and reoperations, and a high degree of patient satisfaction.
“Several large national employers have sought us out to provide their employees with the high-quality, high-value joint replacement surgery we are known for to more effectively manage their health care costs and provide the best care and outcomes for their employees,” says Dr. Kraay. “There are a limited number of places throughout the country where these companies will send their workers. Employers know that University Hospitals will deliver the high-quality, high-value care and the outstanding patient experience they want for their employees.”
Although he is retiring from clinical practice, Dr. Kraay will continue his research as emeritus faculty. “When we think of the ideal academic orthopaedic surgeon, that is truly what Dr. Kraay embodies,” says Dr. Voos. “In addition to his prolific clinical practice, he has been active in research throughout his career and has taught generations of residents how to perform joint replacement surgery. He has left his mark on programs that are well-poised to move into the next era.”