The long waiting lines for knee surgeries on NHS are driving UK residents to look towards private hospitals or plan their knee replacement overseas.
Knee problems are not considered life threatening, which is why insurance doesn’t see a reason to expedite knee replacement for patients. However, osteoarthritis can be extremely painful and debilitating for a patient, and many of them are unable to walk short distances or sleep well at night.
It is not surprising then, that the patients are looking for affordable knee replacement surgery in Thailand, India, Malaysia, Mexico, or European countries.
How long is the wait for knee replacement?
Waiting times for knee replacement have gone up by almost 40 per cent in the past four years as the NHS struggles to cope with growing need, reports the Daily Mail.
Usually, a patient is considered eligible for surgery only if they are:
- taking painkillers constantly
- having trouble sleeping at night
- having difficult in walking and cannot go beyond few feet
However, according to the new figures obtained by the Liberal Democrats, patients may have to wait over eight months for the surgery even if they are in much pain.
If you are young and under the age of 65 years, knee replacement on insurance simply may not be possible. Typically a knee implants lasts 15-20 years, and if a patient gets is at the age of 65, it should serve him until his mid-80s. So, it is likely he will not need another implant again.
But by this logic, the younger, more productive years of an individual requiring knee replacement can be wasted.
Knee replacement at a private hospital in UK can cost upwards of £15,000.
The situation is similar in Australia, with patients waiting for 10 months or more (especially in New South Wales) for knee replacement on Medicare.
In the US, knee replacement for the non-insured is almost impossible with the patient expected to cough up anywhere between $45,000 and $70,000 for the surgery. Even the insured have to pay several thousand dollars out-of-pocket, causing a massive financial burden.
Talking to the BBC, Royal College of Surgeons president Clare Marx said the whole waiting scene is “very disappointing.”
“The longer you wait for a hip or knee replacement the less likely you are to have good outcomes. These waits really matter,” he said.
“The standards of care are being eroded and we don’t want it to get worse.”
So, the question remains: are you going overseas for knee replacement or going private?
Cost of knee replacement overseas
The cost of knee replacement in Asia starts as low as £3,500.
Knee replacement in Thailand will cost you around £5,500; this is less than half of what you would pay in the UK. Thailand is the most popular medical destination for Australians and Kiwis, who frequent the tropical country for a wide range of healthcare services.
Private knee replacement in Australia costs between $18,000 and $35,000 depending on the surgeon. 56-year-old Ellen, saved over $25,000 by travelling to Thailand for her knee replacement, reported the Telegraph.
The cost of knee replacement in Malaysia is around £5,900, and being a former British colony, the country has plenty of English-speaking doctors and paramedics. The healthcare system in the country is also quite robust.
Popular with the people from the Middle East and Africa, India has some of the lowest prices in Orthopedics. The cost of TKR surgery in India starts just around £3,500.
In Europe, the cost of knee replacement starts from around £9,500. Britons usually prefer to go to France, Switzerland, Germany, and Spain for their knee replacement surgeries, some of which may even be covered by the NHS. Wouldn’t it be nice to not have to wait for treatment of your painful knee condition?
Canadians and Americans also go to Mexico for knee replacement – where it costs them between $6,000 and $12,000.
Knee replacement cost breakdown
The cost of knee replacement surgery depends upon the below factors:
- Partial or total knee replacement: The surgeon will first determine the extent of damage and the kind of surgery required—partial knee replacement normally costs about 20 percent less than total knee replacement.
- Unilateral or bilateral: If your need of replacement of a single knee, the cost will be almost half of replacement done on both legs.
- Surgical approach: Whether the surgery performed is by the conventional approach or is minimally invasive knee replacement, it will make a difference in the cost.
- Preexisting conditions: If you need extra care in the hospital because of any medical conditions, it will add to the cost of your knee replacement.
- Investigations: Pre-surgery investigations and consultation with the doctor make a small portion of your knee replacement costs.
- Doctor’s fee: More experienced doctors charge a little higher sometimes, but their experience is usually worth the money.
- Anesthesia and medications: Knee replacement can be performed under general or regional anesthesia, the cost of which will reflect in your final bill. After the surgery, you will be given injections or oral medication for pain management.
- Operation room charges: The kind of facility you choose will also influence the cost of your knee replacement surgery. If it is a big hospital with a lot more amenities the operation and patient room charges will be higher as compared to a stand-alone clinic.
- Number of days required post-op in hospital: The post-op recovery period is usually 4-5 days in hospital after knee replacement; its cost is included in the package price quoted to you.
- Physical therapy and follow-ups: Physical therapy is imperative for the success of knee replacement surgery and most good hospitals will be able to offer you that in premises.
- Knee implant: The type, material, and brand of your knee implant also influences the cost of your knee surgery. Implants are made in Cobalt-Chromium alloys or Titanium-Cobalt alloys. Polyethylene implants and zirconium implants may be used if you have metal allergies.
Companies like Zimmer, Biomet, and Stryker make knee implants. Implant type may vary with the level of activity required in your life (depending on whether you are young or old) and your personal preference.
Why does it cost lower in some countries?
If you are a little concerned about getting knee replacement overseas, you must be concerned about the quality of care and service you will receive. However, the lower cost of orthopedic surgeries in some countries is attributed to their lower cost of living.
Doctors in countries like India and Thailand are not besieged under medical loans. They also see a much larger volume of patients as compared to their Western counterparts, which means their overall fee is split between more numbers of patients, and thus the cost per patient is lowered.
Medications, nurse fees, hospital charges, meals, etc. all cost much less in these countries, which means the patients don’t have to be burdened under hefty bills.