Dave Duffy explains why going abroad for your knee replacement may not be quite the bargain it first appears.
It won’t come as a shock to learn that private knee surgery costs money. So if you’re not insured, a procedure such as a knee replacement can present some issues. Do you wait for a long time on an NHS list? Do you find a way to finance your surgery privately in the UK? Or is there another option?
Every so often you’ll see news pieces such as this one, promoting the idea that you can have the best of both worlds – cheap private healthcare with no wait – if you take your knee and your money overseas.
And there’s no getting away from it, it can be cheaper.
But price is definitely not the only consideration when you’re thinking about a knee replacement.
The price of trust
The problem with heading overseas is that, in most countries, quality can be a very difficult thing to measure. The UK has the National Joint Registry (NJR), one of the world’s most robust systems for monitoring the implants used in every joint replacement and the surgeons performing those procedures.
Follow this link to find my profile on the NJR and it will tell you how many knee replacements I’ve performed over the last 3 years. Entering data on the NJR is compulsory, so if a surgeon or an implant is failing, the NJR will pick it up.
Very few other countries have anything approaching the NJR. Many have nothing at all.
So when a friend recommends a Yorkshire Knee Clinic knee surgeon to you, you can make some objective checks on us. When a surgeon in Romania (or anywhere else) is recommended to you, you’ve really only got the recommendation to go on.
I should stress, that doesn’t mean your surgeon will be bad. They could be excellent. But you really have no way of knowing.
Surgery is about trust. You need to trust that surgeon has the skill and ability to do the job. And you need to trust that there are processes in place to ensure any implant placed in your body will be a) safe, b) up to the job and c) last the distance.
It’s far easier to feel that trust in the UK. Elsewhere, you’re taking much more a leap of faith.
Seeking treatment abroad also increases the level of risk surrounding surgery, and in a range of ways:
Flying: Flying post-surgery increases the risk of a deep vein thrombosis, a clot in the leg that can cause chest pain and breathing difficulties and, in severe instances, heart failure. We would usually advise against flying for six weeks after a joint replacement, so flying back post-op would increase the level of risk.
Complications: What happens if, once you’re back in the UK, you develop complications and need the services of a knee surgeon? The NHS would pick up the pieces, but there would be no record of what implant you’ve had, and no record of the operation itself. Inevitably, the surgeon would be faced with a significant number of unknown factors – and they too could increase risk.
Physio: After a knee replacement, specialist physio is essential to give your muscles the workout they need when you’re not able to be active, so that they can do their job effectively once you are back on your feet.
Physio is included as an inherent part of every knee replacement we perform. It may also be included as part of a typical overseas package, but you can’t take advantage of it if you’re back in the UK – which means you would have to fund it yourself, or risk going without, something we would definitely warn against.
There are more elements to your knee replacement surgery that simply cost. To explore your private healthcare options with Yorkshire Knee Clinic, please get in touch.
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Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon & District NHS Foundation Trust
“Mr Duffy is a wonderful knee surgeon but he’s a very approachable guy as well… That makes a huge difference.”