Weight Loss Surgery Abroad: Traveling Toward Disaster

Posted by Patrick Domkowski on Mon, Dec 10, 2012

With mounting health care costs and more affordable medical options popping up all over the world, it’s no wonder the new phenomenon of medical tourism is quickly gaining popularity. Medical tourism is the term used to describe patients traveling abroad to foreign countries to undergo medical procedures.

So why are patients traveling so far to obtain medical care they can get at home? The answer is simple: cost and time. The Medical Tourism Association claims it can be up to a 90% discount for a medical procedure. On top of the price factor it can also be a quicker experience and can get you on an operating table faster, because it isn’t likely to be as long a waiting period as in the states.

health abroadAnother major lure is the idea of recuperating on some exotic beach and turning your bariatric surgery savings into a full blown vacation. Although it might sound like a great way to recover from a hefty procedure there are some very serious drawbacks that need to be taken into account if you are considering going abroad to find a weight loss surgical center.

At up to 90% off the price of bariatric surgical procedures, you have to imagine you’re losing something in the form of the quality of care you receive. Complications can quickly arise and this medical “vacation” can easily become an absolute horror story.

When finding a bariatric surgeon abroad it is important to keep in mind that not all surgical centers or surgeons, for that matter, are equal. Some surgeons aren’t board certified, insured or even properly trained in the surgery they claim to be in. Many foreign bariatric surgery centers offer sub par care to what you would receive in the states. Antiquated and risky practices are the norm and could be putting you in more danger.

Language barriers are also another issue to be considered when traveling abroad to go under the knife. Even if your surgeon is certified, insured and up to date on current surgical techniques, understanding each other is a whole another problem altogether, a problem that is unheard of in the United States.

Dr. Patrick Domkowski, Director of Riverside Surgical Weight Loss Center and board certified general surgeon who specializes in bariatric surgery, says:

“Traveling to another country to undergo bariatric surgery can pose unnecessary risks to a patient. Compared to the initial lower cost, the cost of having to repair damage that might be done, even irreparable damage, is immense. Deciding on which bariatric surgery procedure would be the most effective for a patient should be discussed and performed by a board certified bariatric surgeon up-to-date on the latest and safest surgical techniques.”

If something was to go wrong and a patient needed to have corrective surgery, it is an insurance nightmare. Insurance doesn’t cover corrective surgery for procedures done outside of their coverage plan, including medical tourism. On top of that, retrieving medical records from foreign countries isn’t always as simple as requesting them, and it can take months even years to access them.

If your surgery does turn out well and you don’t have any complications, it makes continued care more difficult. Many patients, who have life-altering surgery like bariatric surgery, need continued care after they’ve recovered physically from the procedure. Patients often need a plan to keep them on track with their weight loss goals.  Weight loss surgery support groups are also instrumental to achieving a weight loss goal.

The Obesity Action Coalition explains that surgery is only about 10% of the success of weight loss surgery, and that the other 90% is “pre-care, the education, the skill training, the support portion, the follow-up care, and the behavior and lifestyle changes.”

If you are a candidate for bariatric surgery, contact Riverside Surgical Weight Loss Center to learn more about the types of surgeries available and the many dangers medical tourism poses.

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