Our co-host for episode 4, How Much Does Scoliosis Surgery Cost, draws from his life experience. Dr. Mark Myers saw his sister go through her own scoliosis diagnosis and journey. The emotion he saw from her when she thought she might be facing scoliosis surgery eventually led him to become a CLEAR-certified chiropractor.
The possibility of facing scoliosis surgery is something that weighs heavily on the minds of patients and family members who have a scoliosis diagnosis. Questions like, how much does scoliosis surgery cost, float through their mind. Throughout episode 4, Dr. Mark Myers discusses:
Surgery is a huge decision that you can't take lightly because you can't turn back the clock. By listening, we hope you'll discover that you don't need to take a back seat when it comes to your health or the health of your child. Being proactive is the key to success. Enjoy the show!
If you have questions or topics you would like us to cover on a future episode of Life Beyond the Curve, please leave us a comment below.
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Hi, everyone. Ashley Brewer, Executive Director of CLEAR Scoliosis Institute and your host for today's episode of Life Beyond the Curve. Today, we're covering how much does scoliosis surgery cost? When I recorded this episode, I had yet another opportunity to meet with a CLEAR doctor who was inspired through his own life experience. When he was younger, Dr. Mark Myers saw his own sister go through her own scoliosis diagnosis and journey. Now the emotion that he saw from her when she thought she might be facing scoliosis surgery is what eventually led him to become a CLEAR certified chiropractor. He has been providing patients with an alternative approach to treating scoliosis since he became CLEAR certified in 2012 and has helped hundreds of patients since then. He currently practices in Wheaton, Illinois. I hope you enjoy his journey, his story, and his answer to the question, How much does scoliosis surgery cost? Episode four, let's go.
You're listening to Life Beyond the Curve, a podcast brought to you by CLEAR Scoliosis Institute. Each week, we interview experts in the industry, answer your pressing questions, and empower you to take control of your scoliosis diagnosis and live life to its fullest. Enjoy the show.
Good morning, Dr. Myers. Welcome to our show today.
Thanks, Ashley. It's great to be here today.
All right. So today's topic is how much does scoliosis surgery cost. Now, Dr. Myers, you're a CLEAR certified doctor, so you specialize in a noninvasive approach to treating scoliosis, but that being said, I know the possibility of surgery is something that many patients face when they're diagnosed with scoliosis. Do you frequently see patients in your office who are hoping to avoid surgery?
Yes, Ashley, that's actually a great question. It's actually one of the three main reasons people want to come see me, is they're hoping either avoid pain, avoid surgery, or they're just looking for a second opinion.
Now, those are three pretty different options. You mentioned pain, you mentioned avoiding surgery, or just a second opinion. So based on patients coming into your office on those three avenues, do you treat them all very differently based on why they come into your clinic?
We will treat them differently depending on the age of the person that comes in with the scoliosis, obviously that would look different for an infantile, scoliosis versus, you know, idiopathic, a teenager with scoliosis, versus we've had patients even this year who have come in in their late seventies with scoliosis. So a person coming in their late seventies isn't looking as much for a curve reduction, even though they do get some, as much as how to really achieve more life goals and be more functional. Whereas with the adolescent, that's where we're really working to help reduce their curvature and help them with that. So the treatment will depend a little bit, but the basics of that is basically getting everybody back to more normal function and helping them with that.
That makes sense. So let's just jump right into our topic today and I'm sure that the answer to our topic and the question that goes along with that is not a simple answer, but I am just going to ask it anyway, because I know it's something that many people who are diagnosed with scoliosis may be considering or facing, which is surgery. So how much does scoliosis surgery actually cost?
It does depend based on where the surgery is performed at, but usually the range is anywhere from $140,000 to $175,000 for a full surgery. When you look at the breakdown of those, you know, you're 29% of that cost comes from the hardware such as like rods and screws and wires. You got another 20% of that bill comes from the inpatient ICU room. And then another 12% comes from the cost of operating the operating or recovery room. And then, you know, the other minor things come from room instruments and bone grafts, which is like another 6%.
So that's like a really hefty cost. So even if somebody has a great insurance plan, they're looking at significant amount of money out of pocket. Do you find that patients come into your office just like worried about this, stressing about this, kind of wondering how, or if, this is something that they should take on for either their life or the life of their child, because I know you see a lot of parents who bring their kids into your office as well.
Yeah, it's actually a huge life decision. I mean, the parents don't want to take that lightly. Obviously they want to do the best for their child, but at the same time, as such a huge thing, even with insurance these days, most patients have high deductible plans and their out of pocket costs can skyrocket. As a CLEAR certified doctor, we can give them an alternative, even possibly before they're in a surgical range that can help reduce that, so they don't have to have, their child doesn't have to go through surgery and they also, you know, wouldn't have to pay all that money out of pocket.
Yeah, definitely. I know as a parent I have kids and I would want to do anything possible to be able to avoid that. So, you've mentioned adults and you mentioned kids. Is surgery for scoliosis typically performed more on adults or is it kids that get more surgery?
It's mostly children who get the majority of scoliosis surgery.
That's crazy. They're so young still at that age. Now I imagine like with any surgery, there can be side effects involved to that surgery. So if I were considering this for my kids, I know I would want to know what are some of the potential side effects and, and are any of them potentially permanent?
Yeah. So you have to always look at several things from, you know, what are your risks from the surgery, you know, scoliosis surgery, you know, you could have possibilities, you know, of infection or bleeding, nerve damage. Obviously you're going to have loss of normal motion because of the fusion. So it's not going to be what typically people think of. They have this idea in their head of if I get surgery, everything is going to go back to normal. Well, your spine is never going to be straight, whether you have a rod in it, or, you know, have, or you take a different approach, but there's definitely a loss of spinal function to where they're limited in some of their capacity to be able to do things, pain afterwards. Sometimes people have nerve pain because of the instrumentation, it can affect curve progression. A lot of times the curves will continue to increase what the research shows even after a scoliosis surgery, which a lot of people aren't aware of. And I have seen as well that the rods can break after they're in there. And so you also have people that can have allergic reactions to those. So, it's a lot harder. I mean, there's often, you know, 10 to 15% of patients going in for surgery, have to go back in for another procedure to, because of the, to see complications of the surgery. So
Yeah, that sounds like a lot. Now you mentioned a lot of people think or consider the surgery because they just think, Hey, things will go back to normal. But based off what you just described, that doesn't necessarily sound like the case. And you had also mentioned that the spine kind of no matter what is never going to be perfectly straight. So then I guess what I would ask you is like, why are reasons that people do consider surgery knowing that like, what's the purpose behind considering surgery, knowing that the spine is never going to be perfectly straight?
Yeah. From the perspective of the medical profession, there really isn't another alternative that a lot of them are aware of and their goal is to fuse it while it's smaller versus, you know, their correction, the larger that curve is, wouldn't be as good. When that curve progresses later down the road, they're never going to be able to get it back to where it was. But really as a scoliosis, as a CLEAR scoliosis doctor, we're able to give people an alternative that, they may never have heard about and really gives them a lot of more choices as what they can do and be proactive. So their curve doesn't end up progressing as quickly, or we actually get reduction in that curvature so that they don't have to be faced with only one alternative, and that's surgery. There are a lot of different options out there.
Yeah, it's interesting. I was talking to another doctor recording another episode for the podcast, and they said that when people are diagnosed with scoliosis, often the case immediately goes to a surgeon. And so really it, it's no surprise that a surgeon is recommending surgery because that's what they specialize in. So you, as a CLEAR certified doctor, you are trained in an alternative approach that really like going back to that list of side effects that you listed off earlier, you know, limited mobility for the rest of their life, potential allergic reactions, potential rods breaking, potential surgical complications, like these just aren't complications that I hear about in the alternative realm that you practice. So let's talk just, just a little bit, just briefly, about what a patient could expect. If, say, I'm a mom, my daughter's diagnosed with scoliosis and I come in to your clinic to talk to you about options, what can I expect in those first couple of visits?
Well, that's a, that's a great question. Because as a, as a CLEAR certified doctor, we're actually able to look at a lot more areas than just a Cobb angle. So the Cobb angle is basically the measure of how big the curve is, but patients are blown away when they actually see that there's, we're looking at more than just that, that we're looking at their breathing function, we're looking at their balance, their neurological function, the range of motion, as well as their just overall function in life. Those are things that, that x-ray will never tell you about a person. And so that, you know, when we're looking at helping restore function, that opens up a whole different perspective on their childhood, you know, versus just a number on an x-ray. So we're actually testing on the very first day to see how flexible the spine is.
And by the second day, we're actually looking at options, you know, of how much reduction we're actually able to get with, you know, a customized cantilever or a device that we build for that child, you know, to start working, to help change the way their bodies firing and how that we can actually start to get the curve to reduce. So we're looking at, you know, and just, you know, two sessions, basically options that they've never even seen before. A lot of these parents are like, I just, they just wished they had heard about it sooner. That's the number one thing that we get. I just wish I had known about this sooner, no matter what the curve size, you know, because obviously the number one thing, most common denominator in all big curves is they started out small, and you know, the more that we can do when these curves are smaller, the better reduction we can get the curves, just get more complicated, the higher they get.
So do you find that most people, by the time they've come in to your office, they've spent some time either doing the watch and wait that you frequently hear about or trying a traditional bracing method before they find you?
We find the majority of patients who come to us, us have already been frustrated with the current model that they're in or they're desperate to avoid a surgery. So we're seeing a trend more recently, though, in the last couple years of patients who are finding out earlier and doing something about it, just because they're finding out about the CLEAR Scoliosis Institute or finding out that there are more options out there. I think people are really looking for more answers to, rather than just sitting back and waiting for the inevitable that they can actually do something in the meantime, that could be invaluable in helping their child get help right away.
It's awesome to hear that people are like taking a more proactive approach. I think that's more that people need to do is like question the initial path and, and look for alternative options, so it's great to hear that. Now you mentioned a lot of people come to you because they're desperate to avoid a surgery. So do you find, because I'm hearing from talking to you and from some other CLEAR doctors as well, there is work that the patient has to put in taking this alternative approach to treating scoliosis. Do you find that because they so desperately want to avoid that surgery, they are willing to put in the work to help slow the progression of their curve?
Yeah. We're really proud of a lot of the kids that come to our office. You know, they, it's definitely the CLEAR approach isn't a laid back approach where the doctor does everything, you know, and the patient just gets better. The kids are working just as hard as we are, if not harder. And it's really great to see them take ownership of their health. I mean, they, they realize this is something that they have and they've got to work at, but, uh, the harder these kids work, it's just a really, it's you see that they're actually learning life lessons, that if you want something, you gotta go after it, you know? And then when they do and they start to see changes, it's just great that they can, you see that, how it just lights them up, that they're, they're actually accomplishing something, which is great.
Yeah. It's awesome. It's interesting. Cause as you started saying that, I started thinking, wow, this can actually like help them so much as they move into adulthood. And then you said they're actually learning life lessons. So I feel like that went right along with where my thought process was and it's, it's great to teach our kids to take control of their health and that's only going to benefit them in the future. So now, Dr. Mark, so Life Beyond the Curve, this podcast, it's really all about helping people with scoliosis or their family members truly live their life to its fullest. So if you could only give one piece of advice to either a patient or a parent who was considering surgery, what would that advice be?
That's a great question, Ashley. The biggest thing that I would recommend is that surgery is such a huge decision that no parent or child should ever take lightly because you can't turn back the clock. You know, scoliosis is something that is really personal to me because my sister was diagnosed with that as a teenager. And I can remember my parents had hurt, you know, having a discussion about it after the diagnosis and her tears and how she just did not want to have surgery. It was frightening. And, more than anything, you know, I, I know after looking at that situation of watching that unfold, they would have done anything if they knew there was another answer. And thankfully she didn't have to have surgery because she found actually relief and help through a chiropractor at that time. So, you know, I I've seen how it changes lives, you know, firsthand. And that's why I became a chiropractor and a CLEAR certified chiropractor is because I saw the help that my sister got and she was never had to have the surgery, but that initial night when they were talking about it and just the tears that were there and the, you know, the shock and any parent, you know, can understand that, that they never want to have to see their child go through something that's unnecessary. So yeah.
I think like your life experience that you just spoke about there speaks exactly to what you were talking about earlier that our kids, as they go through this, they're learning life lessons as well. And it's clear that your life and what your sister went through impacted you so much. And now as a result, I mean, you've taken a completely proactive approach in, in teaching people what some of these alternative options are. So I just think it's awesome. I love hearing stories like that. Is there anything else that you wanted to leave people with just in closing on the topic of surgery or scoliosis, or just being afraid? Like you talked a little bit about the fear of your sister when it came to the thought of getting surgery. Anything else you want to leave people with on that?
Yeah. Once you explore your options, there are definitely things, you know, through the CLEAR scoliosis programs that we have that are tools for people that can give you that hope that there are things that you can do to be proactive, that you don't need to take the back seat when it, when it comes to your health, your child's health, that you actually can start to do, whether it's exercises or, you know, a program, an intensive program. There are a lot of tools that we have available today that we didn't have necessarily years ago. And the more we're finding out, just the better the results that we're getting. And so it's really a game changer in the scoliosis field. So I would encourage everybody to check out all your options, you know, don't leave any stone unturned when it comes to your health or your child's health.
I completely agree with you. Do your research, be proactive, and take the necessary action for your health and your child's health. So thank you so much for joining us today, Dr. Myers. It was great chatting with you and we look forward to having you again on a future episode.
Thanks for having me.
Now, if you're listening and have been recently told you need scoliosis surgery, or you've received a diagnosis and want to pursue alternative treatment, go to clear-institute.org and click on the purple Find a Doctor button at the top of the page, search by your location, and find the doctor nearest you.
We hope you'll join us next week, on Life Beyond the Curve.