Scoliosis is a medical condition in which the patient suffers from a curvature of the spine. This condition can be asymptomatic, or the condition can be so severe that is causes neurological symptoms or organ displacement. Treatment often depends on the severity of the condition and how quickly it’s progressing. Surgery is usually done as a last resort and often, the scoliosis surgery cost can be astronomical.
Additionally, there are ongoing medical expenses following the surgery, based on the success of the surgery and how the patient progresses. In most cases, patients will continue to need ongoing treatment for a period of several months or years, following the surgery.
Average Surgery Cost for Scoliosis
If you have insurance, out of pocket expenses will consist of copays, medical equipment, and an average of ten to fifty percent of surgery costs, not to mention your hospital stay and any private costs the surgeon charges.
Patients who aren’t covered by insurance can expect to pay a hundred thousand dollars on average, just for the surgery alone. Additional expenses include x-rays, follow up doctor visits, and bracing. Ongoing expenses such as new braces and x-rays are needed every six months. Ongoing doctor visits are necessary in order to monitor the patient’s progress and to determine if treatment is effective. Including back braces, x-rays, and doctor’s visits, patients who aren’t covered by insurance can expect to pay an annual cost of around six thousand dollars. Patients who are covered will still end up paying one to two thousand dollars for care up to a year after surgery.
When Surgery is Necessary
In mild cases in which the spine has a curve less than thirty percent, a doctor will recommend monitoring the condition for a period of six to twelve months before determining whether or not surgery is needed. These cases usually involve children or adolescents who still have plenty of growing to do. The monitoring process involves regular doctor visits and x-rays usually every four to six months. If the curve progresses more than four to six degrees the doctor will often recommend surgery.
Another treatment route for children or adolescents who are still growing is a custom-made back brace. The brace works to halt the progression or reduces the curvature of the spine. Depending on where on the spine the curve is located, the type of curve, and the degree of curvature, the doctor may prescribe the Milwaukee brace, Charleston bending brace, the Boston brace, or another type of brace.
In severe cases that involve a curve of fifty degrees or more, spinal fusion surgery is often required to straighten the spine.
After surgery, patients will need to use a walker or cane. Some patients will require a corset or back brace. All of this equipment can add up to an additional five hundred to one thousand dollars.
Currently, Shriners Hospitals offer free scoliosis treatment for patients under the age of eighteen based on their need for surgery and follow up treatments. Parents will need to fill out an application for the procedure and required ongoing treatment, in addition to the release of medical records and a written treatment recommendation from the child’s primary care physician.
What to Expect from Scoliosis Surgery
Scoliosis surgery is recommended in only severe cases, for patients with curves greater than forty-five to fifty degrees. It can also be a good option for scoliosis cases in which the curve doesn’t respond to consistent brace use. The surgery has a couple of main goals. The first is to stop the curve from progressing, while the other goal is to correct any existing spinal deformity.
For scoliosis surgery, there are a variety of techniques used. One type of procedure involves posterior spinal fusion with bone grafting and instrumentation. This procedure is performed through the back with the patient resting on their stomach. During this procedure, the surgeon will attach a rod to each side of the spine, using screws or hooks attached to the vertebrae. The surgeon will then fuse the spine using a piece of bone that’s been taken from the patient’s hip. The bone will grow between the vertebrae, holding them together straight. The rods attached to the spine will ensure that the bones remain straight while the bone fusion process takes place. This type of surgery is one of the most common and it often takes several hours to complete. Thanks to advances in the medical field, many patients are released from the hospital in as little as a week. Many patients are also able to return to work or school within one month after surgery and can resume normal activities within six months.
The anterior approach is another surgery option for scoliosis patients. Instead of entering through the patient’s back, this surgery is conducted through the chest walls. The patient will lie on their side during the procedure. The surgeon will need to make an incision in the patient’s side, deflate a lung and remove ribs to reach the spine. The recovery time and length of the hospital stay is similar to that of the posterior spinal fusion. However, some patients have reported less pain and a faster recovery time with the anterior approach surgery. Additionally, many patients reported that this type of surgery was more effective when it came to how to relieve back pain fast.
Final Thoughts on Spinal Surgery
Usually, many patients and their families fail to factor in the cost of an extensive hospital stay, aftercare treatment, and ongoing care that can be required for one to two years after surgery. This high scoliosis surgery cost is just a fraction of the expenses that come with severe scoliosis cases. However, many statistics show that both surgery options have a ninety percent success rate. In as little as a year, a patient will be able to move freely, enjoying a full range of motion and minimal pain. However, the lengthy recovery process and ongoing treatment can easily run into the thousands, even for patients who have health insurance. Some hospitals currently offer financial assistance or payment plan options for qualifying patients, which can make paying off the cost of the surgery and lengthy hospital stay more manageable.