How Much Does a Knee Replacement Cost?


Written by:  Howmuchisit.org Staff
Last Updated:  August 13, 2018

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, “If your knee is severely damaged by arthritis or injury, it may be hard for you to perform simple activities such as walking or climbing stairs.  If medications, changing your activity level, and using walking supports are no longer helpful, you may want to consider a total knee replacement surgery.”

Because knee replacement is a major surgery, and since artificial joints need to be replaced in 10-15 years, it is usually avoided until there are no other options.  Most patients who receive a total knee replacement are between the ages 65-70.

How much does knee replacement surgery cost?

The cost of a knee replacement will vary substantially, depending on a number of factors.  These factors may include the number of days spent in the hospital, the surgical approach, the complexity of the surgery, time spent in the operating room and geographical location.  A total knee replacement can be around $50,000, whereas a partial knee replacement, often referred to as a PKR, will cost about 10 to 25 percent less.  This is the average fee for those who don’t have a health insurance policy.

A patient who is equipped with medical insurance such as Medicare will have the majority of the costs covered.  However, even insured patients will have to pay some out-of-pocket expenses.  This includes the deductible, co-pay, or coinsurance.  The average knee replacement cost to an insured patient will be around $4,000.  Be sure to check with your health insurance provider to get a better idea of what the insurance is going to cover.

Overseas surgeries can cost significantly less.  For example, this surgery could cost anywhere from $7,000 to $12,000 in a country such as India.  In a country such as Thailand, the surgery could cost anywhere from $11,000 to $16,000.  Keep in mind that if you do choose this route, be sure to do your homework on the doctors and hospitals before exploring any opportunities.

CountryPrice
United States$40,000 to $80,000
Singapore$15,000 to $24,000
Mexico$12,000 to $16,000
Costa Rica$10,000 to $15,000
Thailand$10,000 to $18,000
Taiwan$7,000 to $12,000
India$6,000 to $13,000

*The fees noted above don’t include any sort of health insurance plan.  Remember, having this type of surgery overseas can pose a health danger.  Always do your due diligence before proceeding.

Knee replacement overviwe

Before the surgery, the surgeon will examine and test your knee to determine exactly how much of the joint will be replaced.

During the surgery, which is under a general anesthesia, the surgeon will replace all damaged joints and cartilage with pieces made of plastic or metal.  Making a slight incision, the surgeon will be able to move the kneecap, removing all of the damaged surfaces of the joint.  Once the damaged surface has been removed, a measurement will be made that fits the new knee.  The whole process shouldn’t take any longer than 2 to 3 hours.

After the surgery, hospitalization for a few days will be necessary.  During this time the patient will undergo in-patient therapy to get used to the new knee joint.

It can take up to three to six months to fully recover from a knee replacement.  This will depend on your condition before the surgery, if any medical problems existed and your expectations.

Types of knee replacements

Total knee replacement

This operation involves replacing the joint surfaces using your femur bone.  This procedure may also involve replacing the under-surface of your kneecap.  The new parts will be cemented in place, and if the surgeon doesn’t use cement, the surface of the component facing the bone will be textured to encourage new bone growth.  Another common technique used with a total knee replacement is by using a mobile plastic bearing, a part that isn’t firmly fixed to the metal parts.  A plastic bearing may help reduce the wear on your new joints.

Partial knee replacement

The knee is made up of three compartments:  the inner (medial), the outer (lateral) and the kneecap (patellofemoral).  If arthritis was known to only affect a part of your knee, a surgeon may want to place one side of your knee, which is commonly the inner side.  This process will use a small incision when compared to a total knee replacement.  This process will be recommended for those who still have strong ligaments in the knees.  On the downside, it has been shown that one in 10 who do receive a partial knee replacement will need further surgery within 10 years.

Kneecap replacement

It is possible to replace just the under-surface of the kneecap if it is affected by arthritis.  Known as patellofemoral replacement or patellofemoral joint arthroplasty, this operation is ideal for those with osteoarthritis and is best for those whose arthritis isn’t spreading.  This process has a speedier recovery time and the operation isn’t as major.

Complex

A complex knee replacement is designed for those who are either losing bone or have a deformity in the knee.  This type of knee replacement will be securely fixed into the bone cavity, and these components will interlock into the center of the knee to form a hinge to offer stability.  If the damaged bone is present, pieces of metal may be used to make up for it.  This operation is commonly done on those who are having a second or third joint replacement on the same knee.

What are the extra costs?

Many patients require more physical therapy after leaving the hospital.  While this may also be covered by insurance, a deductible or co-pay will still be charged.  The average physical therapy session will be $75 to $150.  This will start 24 hours after surgery.

There may be a few minor changes that will need to be made to your home, such as ramps, safety bars, raised toilet seat, etc.  These adjustments may also be covered by some types of insurance but not all.

Temporary use of a wheelchair may cost extra.  You may also need to purchase a knee brace of some kind to offer more stability.

Knee implants may have to be replaced every 15 to 20 years.  Be sure to talk to your surgeon to get a better idea of how long it can last.

Tips to know:

When looking for a plastic surgeon, it’s always best to look for one that has been certified by the American Board of Orthopedic Surgery.  It also doesn’t hurt to look into their experience.

Complications of a knee replacement are very rare.  In fact, less than three percent of patients notice any side effects.

Alternatives to knee replacement surgery

Losing weight can help take force off your kneecaps.  Shedding more than 10 to 15 pounds can lead to big improvements in your comfort levels.

Working with a physical therapist can help design a plan to deal with your pain.  They will be able to recommend exercises or even use ultrasound imaging to increase your blood flow.

Knee injections that contain hyaluronic acid can help lubricate the knee and act as a shock absorber.  These injections can help improve your knee mobility and reduce the pain.

Cortisone shots or medication may help control the pain.  Cortisone, a form of steroids, can naturally mimic the occurring hormones in your body.  These shots can work with the area that’s inflamed.

Prolotherapy can be injected in te ligaments to increase the blood flow and supply of nutrients.  This solution will stimulate the tissue to help repair and four to six sessions are often required to see desirable results.

Acupuncture is a Chinese method that uses sharp and thin needles to impact the nerves and change the flow of energy.

An experimental treatment, such as stem cells, could help regenerate cartilage tissue in the knee.

How can I save money?

Many hospitals will offer discounts to patients without insurance, but these are usually not advertised freely – you must ask about them.

Most hospitals offer even greater discounts to patients who are about to pay cash at the time of surgery.  Even if you don’t have the cash, most hospitals can set up payment plans depending on your annual income.

Medical travel is becoming more and more popular as medical care gets more expensive in the United States.  Medical travel is when a patient travels to another country to have a necessary surgery because medical care in other countries is so much cheaper.  For example, the average cost of a knee replacement in India is $6,000.  Services, such as the Medical Tourism Company, can assist you in finding a surgeon overseas that best fits your needs.

If you don’t have any health insurance, consider picking up an individual policy through services such as eHealthInsurance.com.  Most insurance plans — including Medicare and Medicaid — cover this procedure.  Generally, it will include the evaluation, the pre-surgery appointments, surgery, postoperative hospitalization, home safety equipment and physical therapy appointments.  Since all health insurance companies will vary, it’s best to talk with your insurance company to know what’s going to be covered.


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