Providing relief from aching, damaged joints is big business. The 2019 American Joint Replacement Registry, published in May 2020 in partnership with the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, reveals more than 1.7 million hip and knee replacement procedures were performed in the United States. Classified as orthopedic surgery, the average cost of a hip replacement performed in a U.S. hospital is more than $39,000 — equivalent to a whole lot of first-class travel time in a multitude of posh destinations, and then some.
Many people doing the math conclude they can combine their health and surgical goals with travel and come out ahead by choosing a high-end, accredited hospital with skilled medical staff in a location beyond U.S. borders. The savings are often significant. A hip replacement surgery in India, Costa Rica or several other countries averages $7,000–15,000. In some locations, the total cost for out-of-country surgery can even include basic travel and rehab costs.
It’s no surprise this type of cost savings inspires more than 1 million U.S. citizens each year to dust off their passports. In addition to Costa Rica, countries ranking as top destinations for orthopedic surgery include Germany, South Korea, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Spain and Italy. Respected hospitals include Inselspital and Schulthess Klinik in Switzerland; Hospital Universitario La Paz in Madrid, Spain; Istituto Ortopedico Rizzoli in Bologna, Italy; Severance Hospital–Yonsei University and KyungHee University Medical Center in South Korea; Charité – Universitätsmedizin and Helios ENDO-Klinik in Germany; and Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in the U.K.
These institutions all offer more than one type of joint replacement, based on careful assessment of the needs and challenges of individual patients. Options include joint preservation procedures, minimally invasive procedures to replace a specific, affected joint such as a shoulder, hip or knee; or arthroplasty, surgery to entirely swap out a failed joint with an artificial implant.
Exciting advances in robotic-assisted technologies made these types of joint replacement procedures safer and more accurate through the rendering of 3-D models of bones that allow for a highly customized surgical plan while also providing an opportunity for surgeons to engage in a virtual test run prior to the actual procedure.
Remember that while many joint surgeries are now performed as outpatient procedures, rehabilitation and temporary mobility issues may slow you down in the short term. Plan your journey with that possibility in mind. You may have a new hip or knee, but serious sightseeing up hills and along ancient cobblestone lanes post-surgery may be more than you’re up to. Organize your leisure and exploration time for the days leading up to your treatment, and save the time after surgery for restorative spa and wellness indulgences.
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