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How Much Does Anesthesia Cost Without Insurance in 2021?

Ashley Brooks27 Oct 2021

The total costs of your anesthesia can range from just $200 to $3,500 and the cost depends mainly on the type of anesthesia, whether that be local, regional, general anesthesia, or sedation. Total anesthesia costs typically include the anesthesia supply and equipment fees, the number of anesthesia units, the duration of the procedure, and the provider’s charge per unit of anesthesia. 

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The Average Cost of Anesthesia by Procedure Type

The cost of anesthesia can range from $200 to over $3,500, not including other services used during the procedure or surgery. The cost of anesthesia depends largely on the duration of the procedure, base units of the procedure, and the location. Below are the average costs of anesthesia for different types of medical procedures:

Cost of Anesthesia for Different Procedures  

Procedure TypeAverage Cost of Anesthesia
Leg Fracture Surgery$469
Hernia Repair$582
Tonsillectomy$619
Hysterectomy$1,243
Spinal Fusion$1,159
Coronary Bypass Grafting$2,495
Closed Broken Foot$2,375
Wisdom Tooth Removal$225 - $800

Source: Cost Helper Health, Mira

Anesthesia Cost Calculation

The cost of anesthesia is calculated using a formula that includes the base units, the duration of the procedure, and a conversion factor. 

  • The duration of the procedure is simply the length of your medical procedure given in 15-minute increments. Longer procedures will result in higher anesthesia costs.
  • The base units account for the complexity, risk, intensity, and skill required to perform the service. More complex procedures that have higher base units will result in higher anesthesia costs.
  • The conversion factor depends on which state you are receiving your procedure in. Some states have higher conversion factors that result in more expensive anesthesia.

If you are trying to determine the cost of anesthesia alone, you will want to know the average number of base units of anesthesia is needed for the procedure, the time it takes to complete the procedure, and your location, which indicates the conversion factor. Below is the formula used to calculate anesthesia fees:

Anesthesia Fee Amount = (Base Units + Time[units]) x Conversion Factor

Example of Cost Calculation for Anesthesia

Let’s calculate the cost of anesthesia for a total shoulder replacement in Manhattan, New York. This procedure takes about 3 hours to complete on average. This means there are 12 units for this procedure (1 unit = 15 minutes). The base units for this procedure are 10 and the conversion factor for New York is 24.55. Therefore, the calculation for anesthesia for this procedure is as follows: 

Shoulder Surgery Anesthesia Fee Amount = (10 Base Units + 12 Time Units) x 24.55 = $540.10

In Manhattan for a total shoulder replacement surgery under general anesthesia, you can expect to pay at least $540.10 for the anesthesia alone. However, the cost for anesthesia does not include the cost of monitoring devices or the healthcare provider’s rate for the procedure. The next section reviews additional costs that are added in addition to anesthesia.

Factors that Influence the Cost of Anesthesia

Many factors affect the overall cost of anesthesia - which largely depends on the intensity of the procedure. Below we outline how different factors may influence the price you pay for anesthesia. 

Type of Anesthesia

The cost of local or regional anesthesia is often cheaper than general anesthesia. Less monitoring equipment is needed to maintain vitals and essential bodily functions such as breathing. The more severe the procedure, the more likely you are to require general anesthesia, but it may also be possible to undergo the procedure utilizing regional anesthesia. 

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The following are the different types of anesthesia and how much you may expect to pay: 

  • Local anesthesia: Familiar treatments that utilize local anesthesia include dental procedures, cataract procedures, or even skin biopsies. The patient is awake during this procedure, as only a small section of the body is numbed. Costs are generally less expensive than other types of anesthesia and can be under $500.
  • Regional anesthesia: Regional anesthesia treatment is used for procedures such as childbirth or cesarean section (C-section), hip or knee surgery, or hand surgery. This method blocks pain to larger regions of the body and can be done while the patient is in a conscious state. Regional and general anesthesia typically range between $500 to $3500.
  • General anesthesia: General anesthesia is a treatment method used to put the patient into an unconscious state and unresponsive to pain and other stimuli. This technique is typically used for more invasive procedures, often of the head, chest, or abdomen.
  • Sedation: Sedation relaxes you to have a more natural sleep but you will still have the ability to be easily aroused or awakened. A light sedation treatment may not require an anesthesiologist. Some types of procedures performed under this method include cardiac catheterization or colonoscopy. Deep sedation is done by an anesthetic professional due to potential breathing interference from the stronger medication. In both sedative techniques, the patient is not completely unconscious and may still remember the procedure. The average cost of sedation using nitrous oxide at a dentistry office using nitrous oxide is $80 to $150 for just the first hour.

According to a study comparing the cost of carpal tunnel surgery with local anesthesia versus sedation, patients saved between $139 to $432 by utilizing local anesthesia compared to sedation.

Number of Base Units

Surgeries with different complexities have different base units, which help determine the cost of your anesthesia. Consider the average number of base units for a procedure when you are trying to determine the cost of your anesthesia. In general, the greater the number of base units, the more expensive your anesthesia will be. 

SurgeryAverage Number of Anesthesia Units
Heart and Great Vessels of Heart25
Upper Abdomen30
Total Shoulder Replacement10
Hip Replacement8
Cesarean Delivery (C-Section)7
Vaginal Delivery5

Source: Department of Labor

Anesthesia Provider

The cost of your anesthesia will also depend on whether it is administered by an anesthesiologist or a nurse anesthetist. A way to save on your procedure is by getting your anesthesia administered by a certified nurse anesthetist, as the rate is often cheaper than a board-certified anesthesiologist. However, if you are undergoing a more intense or invasive procedure, you may decide to choose an anesthesiologist. 

Location

The location the procedure is taking place can also determine the cost. As shown in the anesthesia cost calculation, the conversion factor is based on the location and varies by state, or sometimes within a region of a state. The higher the conversion factor, the more expensive your anesthesia will be. Below are some examples of the 2021 conversion factors when estimating the cost of your anesthesia:

LocationConversion Factor
Miami, FL21.93
Manhattan, NY24.55
Houston, TX22.07
Portland, OR21.53
Detroit, MI22.37

Source: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

Anesthesia Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Below we answer some common questions that you may have when preparing for a procedure that may require anesthesia. 

What is anesthesia and what is it used for?

Anesthesia is a medical treatment that is used to prevent you from feeling any pain during invasive procedures or surgery. The medications used are called anesthetics, and different types exist to numb various regions of the body or to induce sleep. Anesthetics work by temporarily blocking sensory or pain signals from the nerves. 

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Anesthesia can be administered by doctors called anesthesiologists or nurse anesthetists. You may also have an entire team to monitor your pain and functioning depending on the intensity of the surgery.

What are the side effects of anesthesia?

Side effects can occur when getting anesthesia but often resolve within 24 hours of the procedure. Due to potential side effects, you should refrain from driving or operating machinery and spend the remainder of your day resting post-operation. Some side effects you may experience from anesthesia include: 

  • Back or muscle pain
  • Chills
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Itching
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pain, tenderness, bruising, or redness of injection sites
  • Sore throat

What are the risks of having anesthesia?

In general, anesthesia is safe and there are minimal risks. The safest form of anesthesia is local anesthesia, where only a small area of the body is numbed and the patient remains fully alert and oriented. However, there are always risks of complications when receiving anesthesia. 

About one out of every thousand of patients under general anesthesia may experience anesthetic awareness, where you may be aware of your surroundings but unable to move during the procedure. Another risk of general anesthesia is a condition called postoperative cognitive dysfunction, which can result in long-term memory and learning problems. This condition is more common in older individuals. Anesthesia can be more dangerous for patients with obstructive sleep apnea, causing them to stop breathing while they sleep.

Risks of anesthesia can be higher due to the following conditions. Therefore it is important to discuss the risks of anesthesia with your health care provider before any procedure. 

  • Anesthesia allergy
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Kidney problems
  • Lung conditions (asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder)
  • Obesity
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Stroke
  • Seizures and other neurological disorders
  • Excessive smoking or drinking

How can I reduce the costs of anesthesia?

Procedures that use local or regional anesthesia are often cheaper than procedures that require general anesthesia. You may be able to opt for these forms of anesthesia depending on the procedure type. In addition, anesthesia from a certified registered nurse anesthetist costs about 25 percent less than from an anesthesiologist. 

Consider these questions when speaking with various providers:

  • What out-of-pocket costs can I expect for this anesthetist?
  • Do you work with any other anesthetist that would charge a lower fee?
  • What is your unit price and what factors determine the price?
  • How long is this procedure expected to take?

Is anesthesia covered by health insurance?

Anesthesia is covered by health insurance if the procedure or surgery is deemed medically necessary. Elective or cosmetic surgeries and associated anesthesia costs are typically not covered by insurance. You may be required to pay a portion of the cost for your treatment depending on whether you have met your deductible and based on your insurance policy. 

To avoid surprise medical bills, be sure to ask your healthcare provider whether the assigned anesthesiologist is in-network, as your insurance may not cover an anesthesiologist if they are an out-of-network provider. In addition, you can consider negotiating the rates with your provider. 

Bottom Line

The cost of anesthesia is generally between $200 and $3,500 and varies greatly depending on the intensity of the procedure and your location. Ways to predict your cost are by understanding the base units and the time your procedure requires. When preparing for anesthesia, talk with your surgeon about whether their anesthesiologist is in-network if you have insurance. Otherwise, you may want to explore options to use local or regional anesthesia if general anesthesia is not necessary for your procedure. 

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