10 Most Expensive Medical Procedures

Worldwide, many medical procedures have become prohibitively expensive. This makes it especially important to have medical aid. Falling ill with a chronic condition makes not having at the very least a hospital plan a serious risk, to both your health and financial security. Here we review ten of the most expensive medical procedures in the world.

10: Destruction of a lesion on the retina (~$153,000 / ~R1,667,000)

Removing lesions on the eye, and specifically on the retina, involves incredible skill and precision, making this procedure – as well as follow-up care – particularly costly.


Image by Alin S

9: Tracheotomy (~$205,000 / ~R2,234,000)

A tracheotomy is one of the oldest described surgical procedures. It involves making an incision to open a direct airway into an otherwise blocked trachea, or windpipe, and inserting a tube so that the patient can breathe. In this case, it’s not the surgery itself that makes the procedure so expensive. Instead it’s the post-surgery care and hospital time needed for the body to adapt to the new airway.

8: Kidney transplant (~$259,000 / ~R2,822,000)

Kidney failure is one of the more common chronic illnesses, but also one of the most complicated. The kidneys are vital organs involved in circulation, hormonal balance, excretion and many other bodily processes. The surgery involved in transplanting a kidney, as well as post-surgery recovery, are very expensive. After surgery, patients also need very expensive anti-rejection drugs, which push the overall price up even further.


Image from Wikipedia

7: Pancreas transplant (~$289,400 / ~R3,149,000)

This procedure is commonly performed on patients with pancreatic cancer. The pancreas itself is responsible for many of the body’s digestive enzymes and is highly sensitive to any stimulation. Surgeons therefore have to be incredibly careful when removing it. The precision that’s required means that the procedure can take many hours. Patients are also likely to require a hospital stay of up to three weeks after the surgery, adding to the prohibitive costs.

6: Open-heart Surgery (~$324,000 / ~R3,530,000)

Open-heart surgery includes various surgical procedures, from implanting a prosthetic valve to bypassing a coronary artery to allow easier blood flow. The urgent nature of the conditions that require open-heart surgery often add complications to the already delicate procedures. Expenses on top of the cost of the surgery include lengthy follow-up consultations and ongoing monitoring.


Image by Wikipedia

5: Liver transplant (~$577,100 / ~R6,289,000)

Among its other functions, the liver detoxifies the blood, releases chemicals vital for digestion and plays an important role in blood clotting. Because the liver is a vital organ that affects the entire body’s systems, the job of replacing one is extremely risky. Other difficulties that add to the costs of the procedure are finding a donor and potentially prolonged post-operative intensive care.

4: Bone marrow transplant (~$676,800 / ~R7,375,000)

The transplant of the bone marrow itself is not the expensive part of this procedure. Depending on where the donated bone marrow comes from, surgery sometimes isn’t even necessary because the marrow can be received through a blood transfusion. What makes the procedure so expensive is the laboratory research involved in finding a suitable donor, and in harvesting and testing the bone marrow.

Heart and lungs

Image by Wikipedia

3: Double lung transplant (~$797,200 / ~R8,687,000)

A double lung transplant involves complex, risky surgery and requires the use of an “iron lung” (or artificial breathing machine) to prevent lung collapse. Post-operative risks include respiratory infection and respiratory arrest. Hospital costs contribute to high costs, with the need for a long admission period, a respiratory therapist and a number of expensive medications to prevent infection and rejection of the transplanted organs.

2: Heart transplant (~$997,000 / ~R10,867,000)

Famously performed for the first time in Cape Town, South Africa by Christiaan Barnard, a heart transplant is almost as risky and unusual an operation today as it was back in 1967. As in the case of a lung transplant, life-support machinery is required to replace the organ in the interim between removing and replacing it with another. Lengthy post-operative care, expensive medication and on-going post-surgery consultation are also required.

Intestinal tract

Image is Public Domain

1: Intestine transplant (~$1,206,000 / ~R13,143,000)

The gastro-intestinal tract makes up the largest and longest organ in the human body. Transplanting an intestine requires intensive concentration and skill, and it may take as long as an entire day to remove and replace the tract piece by piece. Common candidates for the procedure include patients with intestinal cancer, trauma damage and, in severe cases, gastro-intestinal infection. Also contributing to the enormous cost for patients is the likelihood of needing a liver transplant in conjunction with the intestinal transplant.

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