Want a smaller nose and smoother skin? Need a new smile but can’t afford hefty dental bills at home? Well, move over, L.A.; Latin America is taking over as the world’s new plastic surgery mecca.
Over a million Americans travel abroad every year to seek medical treatment, most for elective procedures. Latin America offers patients affordable elective and non-elective medical and dental procedures, usually at one third to half the cost of the same procedure in the United States or Europe. As the name implies, medical tourism allows patients to combine medical treatment with a relaxing, tropical vacation south of the border; in fact, most medical tourism packages include excursions to nearby attractions and guided sight-seeing tours.
Because plastic surgery is so prevalent in Latin America (it’s estimated that up to 70% of middle and upper class women in some Latin American cities have had at least one cosmetic procedure), Central and South American plastic surgeons provide some of the most advanced and cutting edge surgical techniques in the field, usually in first class rate hospitals with better after-care than most U.S hospitals.
Medical tourism is booming in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Panama and Mexico, perhaps with Brazil and Colombia among the world leaders in elective cosmetic procedures. In a a continent where so much importance is placed on beauty (particularly female beauty) Latin American surgeons have honed their skills and helped develop some of the most innovative surgical techniques in practice today. But plastic surgery isn’t the only thing boosting the medical tourism industry in Latin America; even those seeking non-elective procedures such as fertility treatment, joint surgery or organ transplants will likely find more affordable treatment options than at home.
Although Latin America is generally considered the third world, it boasts many excellent clinics, cosmetic centers, and hospitals. However, it’s important to make sure that the chosen hospital, clinic and doctor has international healthcare accreditation. The majority of doctors who participate in medical tourism packages were trained in the United States or Europe or at the top universities and clinics in their respective countries. Unless the patient is very familiar with the country of choice and the doctor who will be performing their procedure, it’s a smart idea to go through a Medical tourism company, which will arrange everything from the hospital, to lodging, meals, the operative doctor, aftercare and post-operative excursions. Keep in mind that although there are plenty of first rate medical facilities in Latin America, there are also an equal number of subpar facilities; going through a medical tourism company can help assure quality and satisfaction. Patients should also keep in mind that a tropical climate means that there may be infections and diseases not found in Europe and the United States and patients should obtain all required vaccinations before heading south.
One of the reasons that medical care is so much cheaper in Latin America than in the United States is because Latin American health care professionals earn about 20% of what American health care professionals earn and medical malpractice suits are rare and difficult to win. Although lower wages help keep medical costs down, if something goes wrong during or after surgery, the chances of a patient successfully suing the hospital or doctor are slim to none, a factor individuals should keep in mind before deciding to seek medical treatment abroad.
Most importantly, it’s important to do research and contact several medical tourism companies to find one that’s right for you. Medical Nomad (www.medicalnomad.com) is a great source of information in the realm of world-wide medical tourism and allows users to find accredited providers and hospitals in Latin America. In addition, the website provides plenty links to medical tourism articles and information in various countries. Some popular agencies include: Healthbase (www.healthbase.com); Medretreat (www.medretreat.com); WorldMed Assist (www.worldmedassist.com); Planet Hospital (www.planethospital.com). Most of these agencies can help potential patients arrange cosmetic, dental, weight-loss and non-elective procedures.