For many people, finances are a major consideration when it comes to surgery, prompting questions about cost. So if you’ve been diagnosed with degenerative disc disease and are considering an artificial disc, you’re probably wondering, “How much does disc replacement surgery cost?” Although the answer to this question isn’t necessarily the same for everyone in all parts of the country, this article provides cost-related information that will be helpful as you investigate your options further.
Lumbar Disc Replacement Surgery: What does it cost?
As with most types of surgeries, the cost of anterior disc replacement (ADR) surgery will vary depending on where you live. On average it costs about $45,000, but in areas like New York or Boston it is closer to $100,000—about 80-85% of the cost of a spinal fusion. The stated cost includes the hospital stay, implant, surgeon, and anesthesiologist.
Some patients choose to travel to Germany for an M6 disc replacement. The cost for M6 surgery itself is usually around the $35,000 range, but patients must pay an additional cost for travel, which includes booking their own arrangements for a 3-week stay in Germany. In the end, the cost of this surgery is not much different than the cost of artificial disc replacement surgery in the U.S.
If you’re faced with the prospect of artificial disc replacement surgery, find out about a new motion-preservation procedure that can address your pain and help you keep moving naturally.
Is the cost of artificial disc replacement surgery covered by insurance?
Today, just over 80 health insurance carriers fully or partially cover the cost of single-level lumbar artificial disc replacement, and about 65-70% of privately insured patients are covered for ADR. However, some providers, including Aetna, refuse to authorize lumbar artificial disc replacement. Check your policy to see if your specific provider offers coverage. In addition, some providers have caveats surrounding this type of surgery. United Healthcare, for example, does not cover lumbar artificial disc replacement for members older than age 60; for younger patients, coverage determination is made by the local contractor.
Artificial Disc Replacement Surgery: Does it work?
ADR is often noted as having mixed results, perhaps in part because it only works for a very small percentage (5%) of people.1,2 (Compared to the number of fusions done every year, which is approaching nearly a million, the number of artificial disc replacement surgeries is closer to 20,000 annually.)
Why is ADR not always successful? Because, as is noted elsewhere on our website, replacing a lumbar artificial disc doesn’t address the most common cause of pain, which is pinched nerves. In addition, ADR only replaces the disc and not the facet joints; natural facet degeneration in the years following the surgery could become another source of pain. In fact, arthritic facet joints have caused some patients to undergo additional surgery after the original disc replacement procedure.
Before undergoing artificial disc replacement surgery (and incurring the associated cost), it’s important for your surgeon to rule out other pain generators to be certain that you will benefit from ADR.
An Alternative To Artificial Disc Replacement Surgery: BalancedBack Total Joint Replacement
Up until now, people with debilitating lower back pain had no choice but to try artificial disc replacement surgery and/or fusion and hope that these procedures would work. But today there’s another alternative: BalancedBack Total Joint Replacement.
The BalancedBack procedure is a new form of lumbar disc replacement that has one important difference: It replaces the function of the facet joints as well as the disc. It has two major advantages over ADR:
- It alleviates the pain associated with a problematic disc using a posterior approach. Just like an artificial disc replacement, the BalancedBack procedure allows the surgeon to replace the damaged disc completely. But unlike anterior discs, the BalancedBack procedure is performed from the back. This approach is safer and is associated with much less pain than the anterior approach; it also allows the surgeon to address other sources of back pain, such as degenerated facet joints.
- It can address not only disc pain but also a broad range of other problems—such as pinched nerves, spinal stenosis, or arthritis in the facet joints. As a result, a BalancedBack Total Joint Replacement procedure may be appropriate for as many as 75% of patients. Simply put, BalancedBack Total Joint Replacement addresses both leg and back pain—something not possible with anterior disc replacement.
So how much does a “total” joint replacement (BalancedBack) surgery cost? The typical total cost of BalancedBack is similar to that of artificial disc replacement: $45,000 for a single level and $65,000 for two levels, no matter where you live. The procedure involves traveling to Grand Cayman for surgery, which is included in this cost. Our team will book business class travel, beachfront accomodations for your stay, and handle all the details of your procedure. We work hard to make the experience as comfortable as possible, to maximize your potential for a positive outcome. (You can read more about the travel experience here.)
Interested in learning more about the BalancedBack procedure?
We encourage you to visit our Knowledge Center, where we have numerous resources about the BalancedBack device, including informative articles, downloadable brochures, and even patient videos.
1 Salzmann, S. N., Plais, N., Shue, J., & Girardi, F. P. (2017). Lumbar disc replacement surgery—successes and obstacles to widespread adoption. Current reviews in musculoskeletal medicine, 10(2), 153-159.
2 Gelalis, I. D., Papadopoulos, D. V., Giannoulis, D. K., Tsantes, A. G., & Korompilias, A. V. (2018). Spinal motion preservation surgery: indications and applications. European Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery & Traumatology, 28(3), 335-342