What are the most common medical procedures? We are interested in knowing, so we did some research.

Blood transfusion, it turns out, and childbirth. Oh, and circumcision.

According to a list of the top 10 procedures billed to Medicare in U.S. hospitals in 2003, excluding pregnancy and childbirth, as published by the Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research. This is described as the “most common procedures performed during stays billed to Medicare” — and the number is the total number of discharges in this category, by the thousands. We didn’t find these same numbers for 2011, but this was interesting by itself. More later.

1. Blood transfusion, 1,107
2. Diagnostic cardiac catheterization, coronary, arteriography, 854
3. Upper gastrointestinal endoscopy, biopsy, 670
4. Respiratory intubation and mechanical ventilation, 494
5. Hemodialysis, 416
6. Percutaneous coronary angioplasty (PTCA), 400
7. Colonoscopy and biopsy, 362
8. Diagnostic ultrasound of heart (echocardiogram), 353
9. Insertion, revision, replacement, removal of cardiac pacemaker or cardioverter/defibrillator, 264
10. Arthroplasty knee, 249

Same place: top 10 procedures billed to private insurers in 2003:

1. Medical induction, manually assisted delivery, and other procedures to assist delivery, 972
2. Circumcision, 746
3. Repair of current obstetric laceration, 733
4. Cesarean section, 652
5. Diagnostic cardiac catheterization, coronary arteriography, 583
6. Fetal monitoring, 502
7. Hysterectomy, abdominal and vaginal, 447
8. Artificial rupture of membranes to assist delivery, 440
9. Blood transfusion, 419
10. Prophylactic vaccinations and inoculations, 399


Jeanne Pinder  is the founder and CEO of ClearHealthCosts. She worked at The New York Times for almost 25 years as a reporter, editor and human resources executive, then volunteered for a buyout and founded...