Will you pay for surgery even WITH insurance?
The fact is that after deductible and co-pay,
MOST people with insurance STILL pay $4,426
Having insurance often means you still need to pay a lot for surgery.
It’s easy to assign a dollar amount to carpal tunnel release surgery. We can readily tabulate the cost of the facility, the doctors’ fees, and other associated services. That tabulation increases greatly if you factor in the average price of rehabilitation and aftercare, which are not often considered. Then the dollar amount for these becomes the greatest part of the total amount related to treating carpal tunnel syndrome. But that's not the real price you pay for having carpal tunnel surgery. There is another price of carpal tunnel surgery very few patients ever consider; the price to the patient’s physical and emotional health as a result of the surgery. This is the “human price” of carpal tunnel surgery.
Understanding this price is important because of the vast number of people it affects. Carpal tunnel release surgery is one of the most common surgeries in the USA today. It’s also one of the most over-prescribed surgeries. Many professionals are currently raising the red flag of caution because so many doctors rush to surgery that it’s estimated over 50% of carpal tunnel surgeries performed are completely unnecessary. That represents nearly 250,000 patients who suffer needlessly. (Data: American Association of Hand Surgeons, 2010)
The economic PLUS the human price of this pandemic is enormous. Here’s a breakdown of those prices.
Surgery can be one of two types, open release and endoscopic. This discussion averages both types. Also, costs may vary by state, insurance company, and complicating circumstances (for example, if the usual 45 minute surgery takes longer due to unforeseen complications).
Carpal tunnel surgery can be performed in a hospital or ambulatory center. Costs vary greatly, and each facility has its own cost structure. Costs for carpal tunnel surgery in each facility are usually divided into facility costs, doctors’ fees, and anesthesia. Post-surgical costs vary the most.
Facility Costs $4,200
Doctors’ Fees $767
Facility Costs $1,291
Doctors’ Fees $736
Physical therapy and rehabilitation are nearly always required after carpal tunnel release surgery. The recovery period can vary from 4 months to one year, and depends on the individual’s ability to heal. It is not unusual for all recovery costs to surpass the surgical costs. Rehabilitation, physical therapy, and work-related expenses generally range between $12,500 and $28,000.
Loss of job time
Loss of time on the job is usually calculated for the employer; also termed “loss of productivity”. But the employee also suffers greatly as a result of lost job time due to surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome. Carpal tunnel syndrome usually – but not always – is brought on by repetitively stressing the hands on the job. As a result, following carpal tunnel surgery and treatment, only an estimated 23% of patients return to their profession. The remainder must abstain from the job that made their hands sick in the first place. When we factor in the economic loss of wages in the hiatus between jobs, the emotional need to find other employment, and the stresses placed upon the family if the unemployed is the primary wage earner, then “loss of job time” takes on a new meaning that goes beyond dollars and cents.
An estimated 30-50% of carpal tunnel surgeries fail. Failure is defined by the patient’s symptoms not resolving to their satisfaction immediately after the surgery. If the surgery fails, fewer than 40% of patients return for another surgery, where the failure rate of the second surgery is similar to that of the first. There are numerous reasons surgery can fail, which is not a topic of discussion here. However, surgical failure is probably the most insidious situation to be in because the patient incurs the financial burden of the surgery, related job loss problems, and all of the other “human prices” of the carpal tunnel surgery. However, the patient receives no relief from the pain and other symptoms in the process. Considering a second carpal tunnel surgery after the failed one is certainly one of the most difficult decisions a patient can make.
Recurrence of symptoms
It is estimated that in 27% of patients who receive carpal tunnel release surgery, symptoms initially resolve but then return within approximately 24 months. This is not classified as “failed surgery” since symptoms resolved immediately after the procedure. It is also the most convincing evidence that carpal tunnel syndrome is a disease that can only be managed but not cured. Surgery certainly is not a cure, and patients where recurrence of symptoms happens are generally emotionally distressed about the situation they thought would be behind them. As with failed surgery, the decision to have another surgery is difficult and traumatic, not to mention financially burdensome.
Having the surgery performed is one thing; getting it paid for is another, and it puts added stress on the patient and their family. The costs of workers' compensation cases are approximately three times greater than other workers, and approximately five times those of non-workers.
An Occupational Health Clinic in New York found 79% of carpal tunnel surgery claims were initially rejected by the workers’ compensation underwriter. Of the challenged cases, over 96% were only accepted later as injuries related to work. The average time from the claim to the settlement was almost 14 months, and physician treatment and approval was almost 7 months, while workers’ compensation board approval for surgery was almost 11 months. These delays and the associated paperwork certainly put undue stress on the financial and emotional fabric of the patient and their family.
Overall pain and suffering
One thing few doctors tell their patients is that over 80% of carpal tunnel syndrome sufferers who have symptoms on one hand eventually get them on the other hand. So whatever “price” is paid for one hand is doubled in the other hand in 8 out of 10 patients. The need for carpal tunnel surgery on the other hand is just another factor in a constellation of elements that cause widespread physical and emotional pain and suffering. As with any circumstance involving health and welfare, this price is the difficult to quantify because it simply is not the same from person to person. If a patient is recommended to undergo a surgery that he or she does not need in first place (since non-surgical treatment may work just as well) then how can we calculate the price of that experience? Simply put, we cannot easily calculate the human price of pain and suffering due to carpal tunnel surgery.
SO WHY HAVE SURGERY??
More than likely, you don't need surgery at all.
It's now well recognized that due to its ineffectiveness, and the availability of other methods, carpal tunnel surgery is considered entirely unnecessary. According to the National Institutes of Health and American Association of Hand Surgeons, most people who get carpal tunnel surgery actually don't need it. Instead, they should have used non-surgical alternatives like deep tissue carpal tunnel massage therapy. In other words, surgery should be your LAST option once you've tried every non-surgical method first, simply because they work.
If you already have carpal tunnel syndrome you must attack the root cause of the problem: tendon inflammation.To permanently alleviate such inflammation, merely removing pressure on the median nerve like surgery attempts is not enough. And that's a main reason why carpal tunnel surgery fails so often. Only deep tissue carpal tunnel massage (called myofascial release massage) can alleviate the inflammation permanently because it drains fluid while also breaking the adhesions that cause the inflammation. It’s nearly 100% effective, but you need such massage expertly performed by a trained therapist daily and for 2-4 weeks. Or you can use the Carpal Rx which is calibrated to perform this identical therapy, called Carpal Rx Therapy, on your wrist and forearm automatically, at home, every day for 2-4 weeks.
So why visit a therapist repeatedly if you don't have to?
M.R. Leblanc, et, al. (2007) A Detailed Cost and Efficiency Analysis of Performing Carpal Tunnel Surgery in the Main Operating Room versus the Ambulatory Setting in Canada. Hand, 173-178.
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