Health Care

Medical Tourism: Risks of Traveling to Get Bariatric Surgery

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Medical tourism is when a person travels to another country to get a medical procedure, such as bariatric, or weight loss surgery. Sometimes, medical tourists travel abroad to get alternative treatments that are not approved in the United States.

Medical tourism is on the rise for various reasons, including not having health insurance, specialist-driven procedures, and the opportunity to travel. While it’s successful for many people each year, medical tourism has health risks for travelers seeking care, especially when it comes to bariatric surgery. If you’ve considered traveling abroad for a bariatric surgery procedure, we’re here to educate you on safety concerns.

Medical Tourism and Safety Issues

Medical tourism can be dangerous. The risk of complications depends on your destination, the facility where the procedure is performed and your overall health.

According to the CDC, other issues that can increase a traveler’s risk of complications include:

Infectious Diseases

All medical procedures have some risk of infection. Complications from procedures performed in other countries include wound infections, bloodstream infections, donor-derived infections (in the case of transfusions), and diseases such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV.

Antimicrobial Resistance

Highly drug-resistant bacteria and fungi have caused disease outbreaks among medical tourists. Antimicrobial resistance happens when germs develop the ability to not respond to drugs such as antibiotics used to treat infections. Antimicrobial resistance is a global problem. Health care facilities in another country may not have adequate infection control practices and medical tourists could be at risk for getting a drug-resistant infection.

Quality of Care

Some countries’ requirements for maintaining licensure, credentialing and accreditation may also be less than what would be required in the United States. In some countries, counterfeit medicines and lower quality medical devices may be used.

Communication Challenges

Communicating with staff at the destination and healthcare facility may be challenging. Receiving care at a facility where you do not speak the language fluently could lead to misunderstandings about your care.

Air Travel

Flying after surgery can increase the risk for blood clots, including deep vein thrombosis. Delaying air travel for 10-14 days following major surgeries, particularly those involving the chest, will minimize risks associated with changes in atmospheric pressure.

Continuity of Care

Travelers may need to get health care in the United States if they develop complications after returning. Follow-up care for complications might be expensive and difficult when seeing a surgeon other than the one who originally did the procedure. Treatment might be prolonged and might not be covered by your health insurance.

Legal Recourse and Qualifications

In the United States, it’s quite easy to obtain information about malpractice lawsuit sanctions by medical boards, and other disciplinary actions against a physician.

Performing this research from afar can be challenging, especially if you don't speak the local language. Many people still take the risk, not knowing if the physician who will treat them is reputable.

A doctor should be trained in the specific area of medicine that is appropriate for your procedure. For example, you shouldn’t have bariatric surgery by a surgeon who was trained to be a gynecologist or internist.

Before agreeing to have weight loss surgery, you should also find out your surgeon’s credentials, including where they studied, where they trained and in what specialty they are board-certified. Don’t rely on patient testimonials. These can be easily made up for a website, and even if they are true, one good surgery doesn’t mean they’ll all be done well.

Safe, High-Quality Weight Loss Surgery is Right Here

There are still safe ways to travel for quality care. Just be sure to do your research ahead of time. At AdventHealth, we offer weight loss surgery options if staying close to home for your procedure is your choice. We’ll help you look and feel your best with your whole health and quality of life in mind. All our bariatric surgeons are board-certified, exceptionally skilled and can help you achieve the weight loss results you desire.

You’ve come to the right place for specialized, personalized, safe bariatric care. Request an appointment today. You deserve to feel whole.

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