It is important to consider all of the costs associated with disc replacement surgery, not simply the surgery itself. When you ask for the price of disc replacement surgery, be sure to ask what that price point includes. In many cases, the quoted cost of disc replacement surgery includes the cost of surgery alone, namely fees charged by the physicians involved in the case (spine surgeons, anesthesiologist), along with the cost of the artificial disc device fee and the fee charged by the surgical center. This latter cost usually includes all of the overhead needed to perform surgery, such as surgical gowns, sterile surgical gloves, sutures, etc.
It is wise to consider the costs associated with disc replacement surgery before and after the procedure. Most patients need medical clearance for surgery, which means a trip to their primary care physician, and perhaps an ECG, chest X-ray, and bloodwork. Your spine surgeon may need to see an MRI of your spine for surgical planning. Disc replacement surgery comes with its own costs, such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, and perhaps in-home medical assistance for those individuals who do not have friends or loved ones who can help them during recovery. Most people will need to be off work for at least the first two weeks of disc replacement surgery recovery. People who perform physical labor as part of their jobs may not be able to return to work for six weeks or more. Indeed, all of these costs associated with disc replacement surgery should be considered.
Fortunately, health insurers do cover a substantial portion of the cost of disc replacement surgery. While the patient will be responsible for deductibles, the health insurance company will usually cover the rest (though make sure to check with your health insurer and get pre-authorization for disc replacement surgery if needed). Likewise, health insurance will usually cover most of the cost of seeing your primary care physician, imaging, lab work, and physical and occupational therapy. Some plans also reimburse patients for in-home healthcare.
Only you can decide if ADR is worth it. In artificial disc replacement, your spine surgeon will remove all of the diseased or damaged disc that has been causing your pain, weakness, and numbness. If you can remember a time in which you did not have neck or low back pain symptoms, that is essentially what your cost of care can buy. Once the symptom-causing disc is removed, an artificial disc is inserted in its place. The artificial disc provides strength, structure, and support for the spine, but also rotation, flexion, and extension. In other words, ADR restores the structure and preserves motion of the spine. Each patient must decide what that result is worth. With patient satisfaction rates greater than 90%, most people have determined that ADR is worth it.
Perhaps surprisingly, artificial disc replacement surgery costs less than disc fusion. This is surprising because artificial disc replacement preserves spinal motion and spinal fusion does not. Nevertheless, spinal fusion is generally 30% more expensive on average than artificial disc replacement surgery. The higher cost of spinal fusion is due to the longer time off work (recovery from ADR is usually faster than recovery from fusion), the additional costs of retrieving bone material from the hip, and fusion is associated with a longer hospital stay, which increases costs associated with spinal fusion.
Lumbar disc replacement is more expensive than cervical disc replacement, on average. In some cases, the cost of lumbar disc replacement can be as much as twice the cost of cervical disc replacement. This cost difference is due to a number of factors, such as differences in the costs of the artificial discs themselves and the length of time each procedure takes. Perhaps most significantly is the difference in artificial disc replacement recovery times. Each inpatient day on a surgical floor can cost about $4,000, and patients tend to spend more time on the hospital after lumbar disc replacement than after cervical disc replacement surgery.
The cost of ADR is substantial and is a major purchase for most people. As such, it is wise to speak with your accountant or financial planner to determine the best way to finance ADR surgery. Certainly, contributing the maximum to your Health Savings Plan and/or Flexible Spending Account in the year you plan to have ADR surgery almost always makes good tax and financial sense. If you do not have sufficient savings to cover out-of-pocket costs, a personal loan or line of credit may be an option. Indeed, the spine surgeon’s office may offer a low-interest payment plan to help spread out the cost of ADR surgery over time. Even if the surgeon’s office does not offer this option, medical financing companies do and can be a helpful source of credit for those who qualify.
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