If musculoskeletal injuries become too severe, they may require surgical intervention to reconnect muscles, ligaments, and tendons; repair nerve damage; reposition joints; and fuse fractured bones back together. Orthopedic surgeons diagnose conditions, create treatment plans, perform procedures, help patients recover, and monitor the body for future injuries so that they can restore patients' mobility and comfort.
Orthopedic Surgery Cost
There are many types of orthopedic surgery, so the cost can vary according to the specific procedure. For example, hip replacement surgery is typically much more expensive than suturing a ligament in the elbow. The following factors can influence the price of your orthopedic surgery:
- Whether or not your procedure will require you to spend the night at the hospital. Inpatient procedures typically cost between $25,000 and $30,000, while outpatient surgeries are $15,000 to $20,000.
- The anesthesia you use. Depending on the invasiveness and length of your procedure, your orthopedic surgeon may recommend local anesthesia, intravenous sedation, oral conscious sedation, general anesthesia, or some combination of these. Anesthesia typically costs between $2,000 and $4,000 for orthopedic procedures.
- Consultation fees. Orthopedic surgeons typically charge between $100 and $500 for an initial consultation and surgical planning session. Some allow this fee to be applied to your surgery if you choose to move forward.
- Diagnostic exams and assessments. Your orthopedic surgeon will assess the affected area of your body at your first appointment, but he or she may also order additional tests, including x-rays, an MRI, or a CT scan. In specific cases, your doctor may also refer you to other specialists to get more information and advice.
- Where you have your operation. Some surgeons perform procedures in private practices or clinics, while others have privileges at local hospitals. Each operating room has different amenities and therefore costs.
Your orthopedic surgeon can discuss the potential costs of your surgery at your initial consultation. While price is certainly an important factor in choosing a doctor and a treatment plan, remember that a lower-cost option could be an indicator of quality. Choosing a reputable, qualified orthopedic surgeon can save you time, money, and discomfort in the long-term.
Orthopedic Surgery Payment
A portion or all of your surgical costs will most likely be due on or before the day of your procedure. Since orthopedic surgery is typically considered a medical necessity, your health insurance provider may be willing to cover most or all of your costs, depending on the specifics of your plan. If you do not have health insurance or your current insurance will not cover the entirety of your surgical expenses, medical financing may help you afford this procedure, allowing you to pay off your costs in monthly segments. Some clinics provide independent financing directly, while others use outside programs such as CareCredit. Of course, you will need to qualify for this financing option and be prepared to pay accruing interest on your balance. Federal programs such as Medicaid or Medicare may also help to cover the cost of orthopedic surgery.
If you do not have health insurance or your current insurance will not cover the entirety of your surgical expenses, medical financing may help you afford this procedure.
If you plan on using financing to pay for your procedure, you will need to work out an agreement with your orthopedic surgeon's office. If you want to apply your health insurance, Medicaid, or Medicare coverage to the cost of your surgery, you will need to work with a clinic or hospital that accepts your program and make sure your doctor has the proper paperwork from your provider.
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Are You a Candidate for Orthopedic Surgery?
Orthopedic issues often create subtle symptoms that gradually worsen, so it can be difficult to tell when it's time to consider surgical intervention. You may qualify for orthopedic surgery if:
- Discomfort or mobility issues resulting from your bones, joints, tendons, ligaments, muscles, or nerves interfere with your daily life and activities.
- Physical therapy, prescription medications, compression, icing, rest, or other non-surgical treatments have not sufficiently treated your orthopedic issue.
- Your x-rays, MRIs, or other diagnostic images reveal that your joints are significantly shifted, your bones are fractured, or your tendons, muscles, or ligaments are torn or at risk of tearing.
- You are in good general health, with no immune-compromising illnesses. You must be able to safely go under anesthesia and heal properly to be a good candidate for orthopedic surgery.
- You do not smoke or drink excessively. These habits can interfere with your recovery and raise your risk for complications. You may be able to undergo orthopedic surgery if you are willing to cease smoking and drinking for a specific period of time before and after your procedure.
- You have realistic expectations about the anticipated outcome of your procedure. Orthopedic surgeries provide excellent results to most patients, but there are risks involved and you may not experience a complete resolution of discomfort or mobility issues.
- You are an athlete that would benefit from sports medicine services.
Of course, the only person who can definitively determine if you are eligible for orthopedic surgery is your doctor. If you are concerned about musculoskeletal pain, don't hesitate to contact your general practitioner or orthopedist to get the help you need.
How to Choose an Orthopedic Surgeon
Your orthopedic surgeon will guide you through the rehabilitation of your affected bone, ligament, muscle, tendon, or nerve, from the initial consultation to a successful recovery, so it is important to find a doctor you trust. You can learn more about qualified orthopedic surgeons in your area by:
- Asking friends, family, neighbors, colleagues, and acquaintances for recommendations
- Talking to your doctor about your concerns and asking for a referral
- Checking databases of licensed orthopedic surgeons (for example, you can search by zip code on the American Board of Orthopaedics' website)
- Searching online for local doctors and checking their reviews on sites such as Yelp or HealthGrades
- Inquire about local orthopedic surgeons with your health insurance provider (to find doctors who fall under your coverage)
Once you find a few possible orthopedic surgeons, there are a few questions you should ask before making your selection. These include:
- Are you a licensed orthopedic surgeon?
- Where did you earn your medical degree?
- Are you a member or fellow of any orthopedic professional associations or groups?
- How many years of experience do you have in orthopedic surgery?
- Do you perform the type of orthopedic surgery I require?
- Do you offer alternatives to the procedure I need?
- What orthopedic surgery technology do you regularly use?
- How frequently do you perform this surgery? What is your success rate for this procedure?
- What are the risks of this procedure?
- What is your clinic, practice, or hospital's infection rate (the proportion of patients who suffer from bacterial infections)?
- What do you do for patients who experience complications or unsatisfactory results?
- How long is the expected recovery period for this procedure?
- What types of follow-up care do you provide? Do you have a partnership with any physical therapists' offices for me to work with during my rehabilitation?
- What type of surgical technologies do you use during orthopedic procedures?
- Does your office take my insurance?
- Do you offer financing options for this procedure?
- Can I talk to any of your previous patients or read testimonials?
Speaking with your orthopedic surgeon about your concerns also gives you an opportunity to build rapport with him or her.
Types of Orthopedic Surgery
Your orthopedic surgeon will tailor the techniques he or she uses to repair your bones and tissue to your distinctive needs. There are many types of orthopedic surgery, including:
- Tissue grafting: using your own bone marrow, skin, or tissue to repair a different area
- Replacement: providing an artificial replacement for a damaged bone or joint
- Reduction: taking out shards of bone after a fracture to allow for better healing
- Resection: removing some or all of a bone, joint, or area of tissue to relieve pressure and discomfort
- Arthroscopy: using a small computerized camera instrument to inspect and diagnose joint issues
- Lavage: cleansing an injured joint with antibiotics and saltwater to prevent infection and speed recovery
- Arthrodesis: fusing two adjacent bones together
- Release incision: a procedure in which an overly tight ligament, tendon, or muscle is incised to alleviate pressure and tension
- Fixation: using pins, screws, needles, or other biocompatible metal instruments inside or outside of the skin to reposition damaged bones or joints
- Limb salvage: excision of infection or tumors in bone tissue to preserve the limb
- Debridement: removal of injured, dead, or diseased cells to allow for remaining tissue to heal
- Aspiration: a procedure in which the orthopedist uses a thin needle to remove bone marrow fluid for analysis
- Distraction osteogenesis: a technique utilized to reconstruct and elongate bones
Preparing for Orthopedic Surgery
Once you've decided to go through with orthopedic surgery, there are steps you must take to ensure you are mentally, physically, and practically prepared for your procedure. Before your surgery, you should:
- Ensure that you understand every aspect of your procedure, including your pre- and post-operative instructions. Contact your orthopedic surgeon if you have any remaining questions or concerns.
- Arrange for a friend or family member to transport you to the hospital or clinic for your procedure. You will not be able to drive after your surgery. It is also wise to have someone care for you and your home for several days or weeks after your procedure as you recover. You should ask for time off of work or school so you can heal adequately.
- Purchase post-operative supplies. Fill your prescriptions, pick up a sling or crutches if necessary, and purchase comfortable, loose-fitting clothing that is easy to put on after your procedure.
- Get plenty of sleep, exercise regularly (but gently), and take vitamins. Keeping your body in optimal condition can help your surgery and healing go more smoothly.
- Have your general physician, physical therapist, or any other relevant practitioners send your medical records to your surgeon. This will provide important information about your allergies and conditions as your orthopedic surgeon plans and executes your procedure.
- Pack a bag with clothing, toiletries, and entertainment options, if you will be staying overnight at the hospital or clinic.
- Do not eat or drink anything at least twelve hours before your appointment time. Having food or liquid in your stomach is dangerous when undergoing anesthesia.
Recovering from Orthopedic Surgery
Proper healing is vital to achieving excellent results from orthopedic surgery. Depending on the severity of your condition and the techniques used during your surgery, it may take between several weeks and several months for you to recover from your procedure. To speed your healing and reduce your risk for complications, you should:
- Get adequate rest for the days and weeks after your orthopedic surgery.
- Understand and follow your orthopedic surgeon's post-operative directions.
- Take the painkillers, antibiotics, steroids, and other medications your surgeon prescribes.
- Resume gentle exercise when you are ready. It is important to stretch and rebuild your joints so you can regain your range of motion and get back to daily activities.
- See a physical therapist as directed to rehabilitate the affected joint or limb.
- Use ice and elevation to reduce inflammation.
- Contact your orthopedic surgeon if you notice a foul smell, excessive pus, or redness at your incision site. Persistent discomfort or fever could also be a sign of more serious complications that should be treated immediately.
- Avoid contact sports, overly strenuous exercise, or potentially risky activities such as rollerblading, skiing, or jumping.
Orthopedic Surgery Results
Your orthopedic surgery results depend largely on the extent of your injury, the skill of your surgeon, the invasiveness of your treatment plan, and your adherence to post-operative instructions. Ideally, your procedure will:
- Restore your bones, joints, tendons, ligaments, and tissues' function and range of motion
- Alleviate uncomfortable symptoms
- Repair any deformities that arise from musculoskeletal damage
Your orthopedic surgeon can further explain the expected results of your procedure at your initial consultation.
Orthopedic Surgery Benefits
In addition to the obvious advantage of orthopedic surgery-repairing musculoskeletal damage-undergoing these procedures can enhance your wellbeing in numerous ways. The benefits of orthopedic surgery include:
- Allowing you to exercise more easily and comfortably. Leading an active lifestyle can improve your overall health and reduce your risk for heart disease, obesity, and other conditions.
- Relieving the discomfort, aching, strain, and stiffness associated with orthopedic injuries.
- Preventing further damage to muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, bones, and other tissue.
- Improving your posture.
- Reducing stress, upset, or anxiety resulting from pain or lack of mobility.
Orthopedic injury affects each patient in unique ways, so your surgeon can detail the specific benefits of your surgery with you at your consultation.
Orthopedic Surgery Risks
Orthopedic procedures are relatively safe, but no surgery is completely without risk. Complications that could arise from orthopedic surgery include:
- Seratoma (fluid accumulation) or hematoma (blood accumulation)
- Deep vein thrombosis (potentially fatal blood clotting in the legs)
- Permanent nerve damage and loss of sensation
- Unfavorable scarring
- Inability to restore full range of motion or provide desired results, which may require revisional surgery
- Developing or worsening arthritis
- Recurrence of original condition (especially for cancer)
- Deformity of the treatment area
- Tissue death, which can create swelling and discoloration that may need to be surgically removed (more common in patients who smoke)
If you experience symptoms of any of the above complications or side effects, contact your orthopedic surgeon for assistance.
Working with an established, qualified surgeon and carefully following his or her instructions can reduce your risk for complications. You should also make sure you provide complete medical records to your surgeon so he or she can evaluate your risks before your procedure and take any necessary precautions. For example, patients who are allergic to certain anesthesia can use alternative sedatives.
Side Effects of Orthopedic Surgery
The surgical process and materials used can be difficult for your body, so you may experience some of the following side effects:
- Adverse or allergic reaction to anesthesia or other medications and materials used
- Grogginess, disorientation, and nausea due to anesthesia
- Excessive bleeding
- Irritated skin
- Suture issues (your incision may reopen or individual sutures may erupt too soon)
- Temporary loss of sensation as nerves heal
- Loss of mobility (as you regain your strength and flexibility through activity and physical therapy)
While uncomfortable, these side effects are temporary and can typically be treated very easily. Speak with your orthopedic surgeon for suggestions if you experience any of the above conditions.
Orthopedic Surgery Safety Data
Orthopedic surgery is typically quite safe, even more so if you choose an excellent, experienced doctor and adhere to your instructions. You will need to sign a consent form before undergoing your procedure. You should not do so until you fully understand your treatment plan, risks, side effects, expected results, and directions to prepare for and recover from your orthopedic surgery.
Orthopedic Surgery Statistics
Each patient's orthopedic condition and treatment is different, but understanding some of the general statistics on orthopedic surgery can help you acquaint yourself with this field and decide if you are interested in pursuing surgical intervention. Below are some of the numbers for orthopedic surgery:
- 34 percent of orthopedic surgeons perform knee surgery, making it the most popular specialty.
- 73.5 percent of orthopedic surgeons operate from private practices, with 44.3 percent partnering with other orthopedists in a group clinic.
- 25,500 orthopedic surgeons currently practice in the United States.
- These professionals perform an average of 32 procedures every month, about one per day.
- Over 97 million people went to a doctor with musculoskeletal issues in 2010 alone, suggesting that many people may benefit from orthopedic treatment.
- The average success rate for most orthopedic procedures is 85 percent to 95 percent (but your own chances could be higher or lower depending on the surgeon you choose).
Orthopedic Surgery Frequently Asked Questions
How long do joint replacements typically last?
Artificial joints typically last between 10 and 20 years with proper care. Patients who lead more active lifestyles tend to wear out their replacements more quickly.
Why do I need an arthroscopy?
This minimally invasive procedure allows your surgeon to easily view, diagnose, and, in some cases, treat damage to your joint. It can be performed as a precursor to more invasive procedures or it may handle your condition completely on its own.
Can I still play sports and exercise after my surgery?
Typically, yes. However, you will need to take precautions not to re-injure the affected area or strain your muscles and ligaments. Orthopedists typically recommend avoiding high-impact sports such as football after surgery.
If your child suffers from a musculoskeletal irregularity, joint infection, or fractured bone, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon can help. These practitioners complete the same rigorous training as all orthopedists but with special attention to children's needs. They understand how to communicate with children about their feelings, diagnose their conditions, and operate on their smaller, developing bodies while keeping them calm and comfortable.
Orthopedic surgeons will almost always suggest non-surgical treatments before recommending surgery. You may be able to sufficiently manage your musculoskeletal damage and discomfort with any of the following:
- Physical therapy to enhance flexibility and strength
- Avoiding certain damaging exercises or activities
- Braces, slings, or crutches (on a temporary basis)
- Joint fluid therapy, which involves injecting lubricating medicine at the affected joint
- Vitamins and supplements such as glucosamine or chondroitin
- Anti-inflammatory medications
Using these treatments may help you avoid the cost, hassle, and discomfort of surgery, but you will need to monitor your condition and make regular visits to your orthopedist's office to ensure your condition does not worsen over time.
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