Back surgery is only recommended in severe cases when drug treatment and other therapeutic methods fail, and the patient’s quality of life is severely affected by back pain.
Surgery can be considered if severe pain in the lower back does not go away or does not improve after a course of 6 to 12 weeks through physiotherapy, electrotherapy, and massage treatments. It is almost always the patient’s decision, but in rare situations, such as serious accidents, immediate surgery can be performed in cases when waiting could endanger the life or quality of life of the patient.
In general, surgery does not guarantee a cure for the lumbar problem. In some patients, low back pain and other symptoms disappear completely after surgery, while in others they return shortly after surgery.
How Much Does Back Surgery Cost?
A laminectomy is a surgical intervention done to treat a narrowing of the spine that occurs mostly in people who are over 50 years old. If you don’t have health insurance coverage, be prepared to pay anywhere between $51,000 and $91,000 for this surgery.
Also, if you don’t have health insurance and you must go through a spinal fusion in order to treat a fractured vertebra, a slipped vertebra, or other spinal problem, expect to pay $81,000 to more than $151,000. The highest prices are seen in surgeries that involve high-end titanium implants.
If deemed medically necessary, the majority of the back surgeries are covered by health insurance plans. According to a back surgeon from Los Angeles, spinal surgeries are covered by most insurance policies. Also, in general, back surgery is covered by Medicare.
In case you have a health insurance policy and meet the deductibles, you will have to pay the coinsurance out of your pocket, which would be anywhere between 10% and 40% of the surgery itself, for a total of $210 to more than $2,100, up to the yearly out-of-pocket maximum.
Back surgery details
During the surgery, the patient is induced under general anesthesia. During this deep sleep, breathing is assisted by a ventilator. The ventilator is the device that controls and monitors the flow of air to the lungs.
Some surgeons use spinal anesthesia instead of general anesthesia. Spinal anesthesia is injected into the lumbar region in the space around the spinal cord. It numbs the lower back and lower limbs. Patients are also given other medications to keep them sedated during surgical procedures.
Patients are usually able to get out of bed within a few hours of surgery. However, the patient will be instructed to move his back carefully. The drain tube is normally removed after one day of surgery. Patients can return home when their condition is stable.
Most patients are discharged the day after surgery. They can usually drive a car safely a week or two after surgery.
Bending and lifting should be avoided for a period of four to six weeks.
Resumption of professional activity can be done after 3-4 weeks, or even later if it involves physical exertion or working in cold or humid conditions.
What are the extra costs?
The majority of the patients will need a two to six-week recovery time. During this period a back brace is needed, which costs $210 or even more.
You should budget for physical therapy as well, which will set you back around $1,100 or even more. One session costs $60 to $110.
In order to relieve the pain during the recovery period, the doctor will prescribe you medication. Also, sometimes, a walker is necessary to move and it costs anywhere between $60 and more than $110.
Important things to consider
Rarely the patient is in a situation that requires emergency surgery in the lumbar area. This type of surgery is taken into account if symptoms such as urinary/fecal incontinence, weakness in the legs, or severe abdominal pain occur in association with back pain. Conditions such as cauda equina syndrome (ponytail syndrome) or abdominal aortic aneurysm may require emergency surgical treatment.
A surgeon locator by zip code is offered by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Or, for those in need of a neurosurgeon the American Board of Neurological Surgery has one too.
The most common complications are cerebrospinal fluid fistula due to an injury to the dural sack and discitis, inflammation of the disc due to infection, but they occur in less than 1% of cases. Another complication is the so-called post-discectomy syndrome, or “failed back surgery”, which consists of intense low back pain, with or without irradiation on the leg.
How can I save money?
Though many patients may not know about it, there are some providers who offer discounts to self-paying customers. Patients must agree that they will pay within a certain time period in order to get a lower price.