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Analysis

Main Treatments Attracting Medical Tourists to Mexico

Sat, 09/05/2015 - 12:50

Until now, talk of Mexico’s appeal to foreign patients has focused on accessibility and competitive prices, but Mexican medical care offers much more than this. A bariatric medicine pioneer and home to many world leaders in cardiac surgery, the country is a hub of medical expertise.

BARIATRIC MEDICINE

Bariatric medicine is undoubtedly one of Mexico’s flagship medical tourism products. Although only recently approved by the FDA, bariatric treatments are an established part of the treatment landscape in Mexico, with procedures offered at five major locations throughout the country. The three most important sites are Tijuana, Cancun, and Cabo San Lucas, which are also among Mexico’s most popular tourist destinations. Monterrey, a three-hour drive from the US border, is highly accessible to the largest medical tourism demographic and the city’s health cluster is also an attractive element. Finally, Mexico City’s international airport sees daily arrivals from all over the US, none more than a six-hour flight away.

Liposuction is a relatively complex treatment, involving keyhole surgery and the suction of at least 5 liters of fat and fluid from the body. The treatment often requires aftercare procedures, with excess skin needing to be tacked back using facial, arm, and breast lifts. These complications mean that other, more innovative treatments are becoming popular. Gastric sleeve surgeries, for instance, are popular with people of whose BMI is over 30. The logic behind the surgery is to reduce food intake by reducing stomach capacity. Appetite- stimulating hormones are also removed. The procedure involves the removal of 60 - 85% of the stomach, leaving a thin ‘sleeve’ to replace the lost material, and eliminating the need for intestinal rerouting. Patients generally return to their daily routines within a week of the surgery, with their overall loss of excess body weight standing at an average of 30 - 50% over a six to 12 month period – a high return on a four- day trip that includes pre- and post-operative hotel stays.

Gastric bypass surgery is also suitable for patients with a high BMI and is, in fact, the most popular surgery of its type, given that it can fight the onset of diseases related to obesity such as depression, diabetes, hypertension, and It is something of a ‘magic bullet’ treatment, with most patients losing the majority of excess weight within the first two years.

CARDIOVASCULAR TREATMENT

While Mexico may be struggling with its own heart disease issues, the country is an appealing destination for foreign patients living with cardiovascular problems.

With heart bypasses costing US$144,000 north of the border, some heart procedures performed in Mexico cost a fifth of the price, and angioplasties can cost slightly under a third of the price in the US. Complex procedures such as myocardial revascularizations, as well as on- and off- pump coronary surgeries, cost less but are performed by surgeons who often have lengthy experience practicing in the US.

DENTAL SURGERY

One-time dental surgeries tend to carry a hefty price tag, making them a clear area of prioritization for medical tourism. Patients with dental issues tend to be underinsured, making braces, dental crowns, dental bridges, and implants installed south of the border an appealing prospect. Cosmetic treatments are also available, including complex recontouring procedures. Major restoration work typically costs a third of what it might in the US, and root canals hover around the US$200 mark. With high-quality dental care available in the accessible city of Tijuana and the beach resort of Puerto Vallarta, cities such as Mexicali are beginning to compete, with round-trip bus-routes appealing to large numbers of Latino dental patients residing in the US. Resort cities such as Cancun and Los Cabos are also home to a number of specialized clinics, meaning patients can, extraordinarily, enjoy their recovery.

COSMETIC SURGERY

From tightening crow’s feet to much more serious measures, the standard and price for cosmetic surgeries in Mexico continues to attract medical tourism in high numbers. Many cosmetic surgery clinics offer premium packages including post-surgery care and transport services, with some Cancun-based clinics also offering a personal bilingual assistant to patients.

The full set of cosmetic procedures available in Mexico ranges from eyelid treatments and rhinoplasty to post- partum vaginal reconstructions and gender reassignment surgeries. Savings made from lower overheads and operating costs, along with the lower price of malpractice insurance, are passed on to the patient. The standard package of plastic surgeries include gender reassignment procedures, fat grafting, liposuction, breast implants, silicone removal, lip lifts and fills, orchiectomy, and hysterectomy. Others offer innovative surgeries such as ‘mini-facelifts’, which target specific areas of the face via a small incision in a part of the face that is not easily visible to others. Cancun locations offer laser makeovers, fat transfers, and body contouring.