Medical Tourism: Six Current Trends in Traveling to the Doctor


By Kara Masterson


When people think of leisure travel, they usually imagine beaches, outdoor activities, or exploring distant cultures and foods. However, there is a growing trend of Americans traveling abroad to undergo medical procedures. Patients are discovering high-quality medical facilities abroad that offer the same medical treatments they can receive domestically at much lower prices and oftentimes with a shorter waiting period. Listed below are six of the most popular medical tourism procedures.



1.      Dental Care

Dental crowns, veneers, and implants can all be performed by skilled, experienced oral dentists and surgeons for a fraction of the price at dental clinics outside the U.S. Costa Rica, a popular tourist destination that also has a significant American expat community, and Mexico are the most easily accessible countries when traveling from the U.S. Vietnam, Thailand, and other parts of Southeast Asia also boast Western quality dental clinics that perform major dental work at sharply discounted prices and often do not involve a long wait.



2.      Gastric Bypass

With more Americans than ever currently struggling with severe obesity, gastric bypass surgery has become more popular. Because the stomach-shrinking surgery is typically not covered by American insurance policies, gastric bypass is the number one procedure medical tourism participants currently seek, and the surgery is even a top motivator for new passport applications. Medical tourism travelers are making the trip to India, Mexico, and Panama to undergo gastric bypass surgery for dramatic weight loss.



3.      Mitral Valve Replacement and Angioplasties

In Thailand, Singapore, and Korea–countries that feature numerous Western standard surgical facilities–travelers may save an estimated $6,000 to $25,000 on these risky, expensive cardiac procedures. Due to the nature of risk, patients are advised to take out a complications insurance policy that will enable the patient to have any problems that may arise corrected by a U.S. doctor.



4.      Breast Augmentation

According to 2012 statistics, breast augmentation is the most popular plastic surgery procedures. Women often opt to have cosmetic procedures abroad, where the cost of breast augmentation is significantly lower. Mexico is a popular destination for breast augmentation surgery, which increases bust size and/or lifts the breasts. Patients can potentially save thousands, with hotel and airfare included, by having the procedure performed abroad.



5.      In Vitro Fertilization

Most U.S. insurance carriers consider IVF to be a non-elective procedure. Not only can process be pricey, but oftentimes, more than one round is needed. Travelers flock to India, Russia, and Panama and sometimes take advantage of medical tourism packages that include the in vitro fertilization procedure, required medicines, hospital stay, travel, and hotel.



6.      Hip and Knee Replacement

Although joint replacement surgeries are usually covered by insurance, a patient may be required to have been in pain for a number of years before qualifying for coverage. Costa Rica and Brazil offer affordable hip and knee replacement surgeries at approximately half price.


Medical tourism is a trend that keeps on growing. The level of safety risk should always be a primary concern when considering medical tourism. No amount of extra cash can fix a botched medical procedure.


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