3 of the most expensive medical procedures you’ll (hopefully) never need

By nature, we freelancers are a hardy bunch. We constantly juggle multiple clients, strive to reach deadlines, and fuss over our clients. And we love every minute of it. Well, except for the stress. Even the strongest among us will need medical attention from time-to-time, which got us thinking: what are the most expensive medical procedures someone can get? After some extensive research, we came up with this short list of crazy expensive medical procedures.

Heart Transplant [Cost: $990,000]

Since heart disease is one of the deadliest conditions, you’d think heart transplants are done all the time. In reality, only about 2,300 heart transplants are done in the U.S. each year, and a total of 62,508 heart transplants have been performed since 1988. Sadly, thousands of people die waiting for a heart transplant because there aren’t enough available donor hearts – currently, there are about 3,000 people on the national transplant waiting list for a heart.

Donor hearts have to meet strict standards – body weight, overall health, and blood type are just a few of the things doctors look for when matching a person with the right heart. Once surgeons locate a good match, the heart must be transplanted within 4 hours.

Getting a new heart is a lifelong commitment. After the 1-3 week hospital stay, there’s a lifetime of rejection meds and doctor visits. The survival rate is 88 percent the first year after surgery and 75 percent five years post-surgery.

Some surprising heart facts:

  • The first successful human heart transplant was done in 1967. The recipient lived only 18 days, but the surgery was still considered a success.
  • During surgery, the donor heart is sewn into the recipient’s chest, while the patient is kept alive through a heart-lung machine.
  • In your lifetime your heart will beat about two and a half billion times. That’s enough energy to drive to the moon and back – 460,200 miles! (177 cross country US trips)
  • Back in 1929, a German surgeon named Werner Forssmann invented what doctors now call a cardiac catheterization. He pushed a catheter 20 inches into his arm vein so that he could examine the inside of his own heart. He was either brave or totally insane. Either way, today the cardiac catheterization is a now common medical procedure. Thank goodness it’s not DIY anymore.

Heart-Lung Transplant [Cost: $1,148,000]

At $1,148,000, the heart-lung transplant is the second most expensive medical procedure in the United States. The surgical techniques improved dramatically since the first successful transplant back in 1981. Usually, candidates for heart-lung transplants are people born with fatal heart and lung diseases. Last year there were only about 15 of these transplants done in the United States, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Similar to a heart transplant procedure, patients are kept alive with a heart-lung machine while the new heart and lungs are implanted. The survival rates for heart-lung transplants improved a lot in recent years, to about 85 percent within the first year post-surgery.

A few interesting facts about your lung you wouldn’t have thought possible:

  • Lungs, because they’re light and contain air, are the only organs that float on water.
  • When your body is at rest, it takes only six seconds for blood to travel from your heart to your lungs and back again.
  • 70 percent of body waste/toxins are eliminated through your lungs through the process of breathing. Yoga anyone?

Intestine Transplant [Cost: $1,200,000]

Yes, you read that right. Intestine transplant...$1.2 million per surgery! Most people think of the stomach or the colon (large intestine) when digestive issues crop up. But the small intestine does the majority of the work by absorbing 90% of what you eat. Unfortunately, for many people with chronic digestive conditions like Crohn’s disease, the small intestine can’t absorb nutrients needed to keep the body strong.

Why is intestine transplant surgery so darn pricey? Well, the surgical replacement of the small intestine is extremely challenging to perform. Even though the first successful procedure was done back in 1987, only a few medical centers in the U.S. offer this procedure. This might be why there were only an average of 99 transplants done in the U.S. each year.

Like the previous procedures, anti-rejection meds and doctor’s visits are post-surgical realities for the an intestine recipient. The survival rate post-surgery is over 50 percent in the first year.

Fun facts about your intestine function (yes, we just wrote that):

  • Your intestinal muscles are so strong that food will still digest, even if you eat while upside down.
  • You’ll eat close to 35 tons of food in your lifetime. That’s like eating 17,500 quarter- pounder burgers!
  • On average, we pass gas about 15 times a day. Don’t worry, we don’t judge.

There it is… these three single procedures total a little over $3.2 million dollars. Wow! That’s enough to provide free emergency room visits to about 2,666 people!