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Budget-Friendly Medical Tourism – Worth the Risk?

Ava Lawson | March 7, 2014 | Posted in Body, Breast Augmentation, Facelift, Liposuction

Plastic surgery facial evaluationA full facelift, post-op medications, plus eight days in a luxe recovery center costs only $6,000 in Costa Rica – just one of many countries reaping financial rewards of the medical tourism boom. In light of rising health care costs and Obamacare frustrations, it’s no wonder more than a million Americans venture abroad for affordable procedures every year.

Inexpensive dental treatments, plastic surgery and gastric bypass operations are in high demand among top medical tourism destinations such as India, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Thailand and Brazil.  But is traveling to another country for cheap medical treatment really worth the risk?

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Medical tourism dental nightmare

One Florida resident who is still suffering from botched dental implants she got overseas cautions, “I would say look for another alternative because when you go outside the U.S. it’s a gamble.”

The story of Helen Hyjek is unfortunately not unique. Like millions of U.S. residents without insurance, she was lured by the low prices offered in Costa Rica, an eco-tourism haven known for its advanced, first-rate health care system. After paying just one-third of what the implants would have cost back home, Helen says she can barely eat solid food, suffers from bleeding gums and teeth that are much too large. Hyjek must now live with her mistake, as options for legal recourse are virtually non-existent overseas.

And while plenty of patients who travel to second and third-world countries for cost-cutting medical treatment are pleased with the quality and outcome of their surgery, the horror stories of post-op complications, non-existent follow up care and gross negligence abound. America’s health insurance woes may be a strong impetus for seeking budget-friendly procedures abroad, but consider these factors before planning a medical vacation.

An affordable passport to plastic surgery – but what about risks?

When examining the pros and cons of medical tourism, the perceived advantages are quite obvious:

  • Money savings: patients will pay far less out-of-pocket for their liposuction, weight loss surgery, nose job, full mouth restoration or breast augmentation. By most accounts, procedures are 50 to 75 percent less than in North America.
  • A mini-vacation abroad:  Who wouldn’t want to recover in a tropical climate, where privacy is guaranteed? Most medical vacation packages include sightseeing trips, transportation to and from doctor’s appointments and post-op recovery lodging.
  • No waiting periods: The majority of medical tourism hotspots have numerous hospitals and surgeons (most fully accredited), which are available on short notice.

Disadvantages and risks of medical treatment overseas:

  • No legal recourse: filing a malpractice suit may be impossible or pointless in the event of a botched procedure. Patients are in a foreign land and must abide by local laws.
  • Lack of follow-up care:  most medical tourists return home after 7-10 days, which is not outside the window of serious post-op complications. Follow-up care may be more difficult back home.
  • Prescription medications may be counterfeit or of poor quality in some countries.
  • Flying after surgery increases the risk for dangerous blood clots including deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism.

In the end, due diligence is mandatory for any type of surgical procedure, whether undertaken in the U.S or abroad. Careful research of your prospective surgeon is encouraged, along with a thorough evaluation of hospital accreditation and post-care facilities.

For more information about plastic surgery procedures in New York, please contact Dr. Thomas Loeb at 212-327-3700.

+ Resources
- Resources, Woman shares medical tourism dental nightmare,

The Huffington Post, Costa Rica’s Medical Tourism Boom,

Latin Post, Plastic Surgery in the Dominican Republic: Is the Cheap Cost of Medical Tourism Worth the Risk?

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