The Risks of Medical Tourism - Is It Safe?

by Sarah Freeland - Date: 2006-11-30 - Word Count: 316 Share This!

Certainly, every surgery (no matter where it's carried out) entails some element of risk. To minimize the chance of unsatisfactory results, professional associations urge patients to consider surgeons' training and credentials. In addition, Britain's The Telegraph newspaper counsels, "It is not enough that a surgeon, or hospital facility, is adequate for the operation being contemplated; they must be proficient enough to cope with worst-case complications as well, and to be able to offer, for example, swift access to state-of-the-art intensive care as and when required."

North Americans consider overseas medical treatment and dental tourism riskier than local care. Legal means such as malpractice are problematic in other jurisdictions. In general, insurance packages will not cover complications stemming from patients' overseas care; as the American Society of Plastic Surgeons counsels, "Bargain surgery can be costly."

Industry specialists counsel that the main areas of risk lie in travel complications and aftercare. Air travel exposes patients to disease vectors that may protract their recovery. So, too, can normal vacation activities such as drinking alcohol, tan in the sun, or exercise, complicate healing of incisions and scars?

Travel immediately after surgery or dental interventions can increase patients' risk of complications. Air transport may interfere with patients' normal response to anesthetics or dental fillings. The ASPS warns that long flights can increase the risk of developing pulmonary embolism and blood clots, and suggests waiting five to seven days after bodily procedures and seven to 10 days after aesthetic surgery on the face, before flying.

Perhaps the greatest risk involved in medical tourism concerns after surgery-care. American Dental Association consumer adviser Matt Messina told USA Today that patients risk aftercare. "My concerns are not for the quality of dentistry received ... but for the patient when it comes to long-term follow-up and possible complications….'buyer beware' is very much in play here, as you may have fewer options after treatment if you feel it has not gone well."

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