The most common surgery received by South Koreans last year was cataract surgery.
The National Health Insurance Service released its annual report on major surgery statistics 2021 on Wednesday. According to the annual report, 1.68 million patients received one or more of 33 major surgeries, excluding plastic surgeries, last year (a total of 2.1 million surgeries). The number of patients who received surgery has been increasing by 2.0 percent per year since 2017.
A total of 477,000 people received cataract surgery last year, which is about 938.2 per 100,000 people. A cataract is a condition of proteins in the eye’s lens becoming hardened and cloudy in the process of aging. A medical source said that more people are experiencing cataracts due to population aging. “The expanded coverage of indemnity insurance may have contributed to the increasing number of surgeries.” Following cataract surgery, general spine surgery (190,000 people) and hemorrhoid surgery (158,000 people) were the most common.
Partial mastectomy showed the biggest increase in the last five years, from 26,158 in 2017 to 41,881 last year, growing 12.5 percent on average per year. The medical field said the trend might be related to low birth rates and more people choosing not to marry. The woman’s breast tissues decrease if she does not experience pregnancy. Then, the process of breast tissue increasing again repeats, which causes mutations and increases the likelihood of breast cancer. The increase in the number of the surgery was also affected by the fact that partial mastectomy, rather than total mastectomy, has become enough to treat breast cancer thanks to medical advancement.
By age, hernia surgery was the most common among those aged nine or younger, appendectomy from appendicitis, etc., among the teens, cesarean operation among those in their 20s and 30s, hemorrhoids surgery among those in their 40s, and cataract surgery among those aged 50 or older. Meanwhile, the number of nasal cavity operations using endoscopes decreased by 13.4 percent on average per year during the last five years. Hemorrhoids and appendectomy surgeries are also downward by 5.3 percent and 2.7 percent per year on average, respectively.
The total cost of major surgeries recorded 7.8 trillion won last year, showing an annual average growth rate of 10.2 percent since 2017. General spine surgery accounted for the highest share at 987.7 billion won. The most expensive surgeries per operation were coronary artery bypass at 34.41 million won and heart surgery at 34.36 million won.
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