I don't have a very good health insurance policy. At the same time, I need a spinal fusion in my lumbar spine. My doctor has suggested trying a temporary fusion using screws to hold the spine in place for a week. How will this save me money? If it works, I'll have two surgeries to pay for.
The average cost of a spine fixation using screws with a frame attached to the outside of the body is around $3,000. A complete fusion costs around $12,000. If the temporary trial doesn’t improve your symptoms or your ability to function, you'll have a much smaller bill. It's true that if the trial shows fusion will help, the cost of the two surgeries are added together. There are many other cost considerations in this approach. Some are direct (what you pay out of your pocket) while others are indirect (the cost to others and society). For example, there are many costs to your employer if you are off work for three months with a fusion. The employer's costs may be less if the trial shows the fusion won't work and you are able to return to work sooner. Reports so far show that lumbar fusion only helps about half the time. With odds like that, this is a pretty risky decision. A temporary trial using fixation may be worth it to some patients.