Is medical tourism worth it and safe?

Faced with high medical costs at home, millions of Americans consider the less costly option of traveling abroad for medical treatment. The health care industry calls this medical tourism‘ and expects significant growth over the next decade. Although there is no comprehensive data on medical travel currently available, early indications suggest that between 100,000 and a million Americans travel each year for oversees medical care.

Enjoy the Islands of Southern Thailand while recovering from a medical procedure.

Although many countries provide medical tourism services, many Americans choose Mexico because of its close proximity to the United States. Other countries favored by Americans include Thailand, Costa Rica, and India. Some foreign markets specifically target Americans, promoting their services with flashy brochures, promising luxurious rooms, spa-like care, and even include vacation packages included in the price of the trip.

Of course the real reason for medical tourism is financial. Most patients considering this option are either uninsured or under-insured, and looking for cost savings. Cosmetic surgery patients, particularly those seeking liposuction, find the offers particularly attractive because their treatments are rarely covered by insurance. According to the American Medical Association, procedures performed abroad can cost up to 80 percent less than if they were done in the United States. Facial liposuction cost, which can seem prohibitive to some patients, can look seductively affordable when offered by a clinic in a foreign country.

The real question is whether facial liposuction cost is the best way to choose medical care.

Are there risks associated with medical tourism?

The industry claims that consumers can expect the same quality of care that is offered in the United States; however, there is no comprehensive data to support this claim. In fact, both the American Medical Association (AMA) and Joint Commission International (which accredits international hospitals) caution the consumer to be careful. Although many consumers return to the United States satisfied with their treatment, others return with complaints and complications.

This is partly due to problems identifying qualified surgeons. Because there is no way to adequately research and interview an oversees physician, they often choose a doctor from a word-of-mouth (or internet) referral. Unfortunately for these patients, whether they get a competent surgeon can sometimes be attributed to luck alone.

Done properly, lipo is a relatively safe treatment intervention. However, like all surgeries, complications can arise. The greatest risk is that of infection, though patients can also suffer from poor wound healing, hypostatic pneumonia and other iatrogenic problems. While rare, a poorly performed facial lipo intervention can even result in death.

Cosmetic surgery patients need to be particularly attentive the skill of the surgeon, since the outcome will affect the way that they look. For this reason, facial lipo can be a particularly sensitive intervention. If the surgery is not performed skillfully, the patient could be left with noticeable facial flaws, including asymmetry, lumpiness, and/or mottling (reddish blemishes that may or may not fade over time). In some cases, liposuction patients report numbness that may be permanent.

For any patient, these results would be disturbing, but for the medical tourist, they can be costly. Oversees doctors may not feel obligated to correct these problems, leaving lipo patients saddled with additional medical expenses. When post operative issues arise after the patient has returned home, they find that American doctors are reluctant to provide follow up treatment because of liability issues.

So, what should the consumer do? Follow the AMA’s advice: be cautious. Fancy fliers and brochures do not ensure safety. Look carefully at your options, research, and make sure that you have covered as many bases as possible. Never make assumptions as a medical tourist. It could be a costly mistake.


Article compiled by Casey Scott.


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2 thoughts on “Is medical tourism worth it and safe?”

  1. I went to a dentist overseas . My experience was pretty good. (90% of the work had done was wonderfully successful). I even had to have surgery – I was pretty worried about that – but the surgeon was brilliant and problems I had for years were fixed permanently. Only one part of the series of different things I had done did not work out to be the best choice – I just wish I had gone for a different option with that one procedure- my issue was really with the cosmetic result – medically it was all ok. So I am one of the many who go and do not die or have any bad results. Just to let people know that there are some successes.

  2. I cannot vouch for medical surgery, but I have just completed some pretty extensive dental treatment in Thailand involving implants and crowns. The facilities, treatment and service was world class. The service alone was easily the best customer service experience I have ever had. The treatment was roughly a third of the price as it was going to be back in Australia without compromising the result.
    I couldnt be happier with my new sparkling teeth that have cause me so much grief over the past few years!

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