The Cost of Spinal Fusion – Should You Go Overseas for Back Surgery?

by lmatthews on July 4, 2013

back surgery overseas costsA major consideration for most people looking to have elective back surgery is the cost of such procedures. Time off work, the risks and benefits, and ways to optimize recovery are all important things to consider but if the cost of back surgery is, itself, prohibitive then it could be time to investigate other options, such as spinal fusion surgery at an overseas clinic.

The cost of lumbar spinal fusion is usually around $40,000 to $50,000, with around $3,000 for physician services including postoperative care, $40k to $45k for surgery admission and a hospital stay of around six days at just under $2k a day, and just over $1k for anaesthesia services. Costs vary widely between centers, and can work out lower if minimally invasive surgery is carried out and there is no need to stay overnight in the hospital or clinic. The cost of cervical spinal fusion may also be less, with a shorter surgery and shorter stay in hospital resulting in a typical cost of around $20,000 to $25,000.

Rising Costs of Back Surgery

Spinal fusion across multiple segments will result in higher costs due to a longer procedure time, higher cost of anaesthesia, and an extended stay in the hospital for monitoring and rehabilitation. Similarly, more complex surgeries involving disc removal, bone spur shaving, artificial disc replacement and spinal fusion will incur additional costs because of extra hardware, time, and follow-up imaging. Where spinal fusion is combined with stem cell injections the costs are also likely to be higher.

Shopping Around for Surgery

Patients may wish to reduce the cost of elective back surgery by shopping around and having free consultations with a number of clinics offering their chosen procedure. It may be worth considering surgery at an overseas clinic if cost is a major consideration. However, although the price of a lumbar fusion in Europe may be a fraction of the cost in the US (some clinics quote a figure of $14k to $22k), there are additional issues to weigh.


Extra Costs of Surgery Overseas

Travel, accommodation, and living expenses can quickly mount up, especially if convalescing at a hotel with a private nurse on hand. Taking family members along for moral and practical support after back surgery can also become expensive and create difficulties with time away from work. Many insurers will not cover medical expenses for treatment outside of a patient’s home country, and many policies that do cover part of the procedure do not cover expenses in the event of complications. The initial savings on back surgery overseas may quickly become null when adding up all the additional expenses and the potential cost of surgery going wrong.

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