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Common Medical Tourism Specialties and Treatments

Medical travel for health care can provide many benefits compared to options locally. However, some treatments are more common for health travel than others due to the complexity of the procedure, the recovery period, and the need for follow up and monitoring.

Below are the more common specialties in alphabetical order with typical treatments described.  Where possible, the medical association linked to the specialty is referenced if they have a position on medical travel. For reference, the U.S. CDC (Center for Diseases Control & Prevention) provides a recommendation on medical travel as well here: CDC Link

Alzheimer’s Disease
Bariatric Surgery
Cardiology
Cardiovascular Surgery
Dentistry & Orthodontics
Fertility Treatment
Gastroenterology
Health Screening
Ophthalmology
Orthopedic Surgery
Plastic Surgery
Tropical Medicine

Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s is a case of dementia and a chronic neurodegenerative disease that becomes slowly worse over time. Patients initially forget things and familiar people and eventually need full time care. Causes and cures for this disease have not been fully defined. Treatment and care of Alzheimer’s patients overseas may be a more affordable option for long term cases.

Bariatric Surgery
Bariatric surgery includes a variety of treatments performed on people who are obese with the objective of losing weight or preventing weight gain and lowering their body-mass index (BMI) to normal levels. Treatments include reducing the size of the stomach (gastric band), removing a portion of the stomach (sleeve gastrectomy), and rerouting the small intestine to a small stomach pouch (gastric bypass surgery). The ASMBS’s position on medical travel for bariatric surgery is at this link.

Caution: Bariatric Surgery is a medical tourism specialty that requires the MOST research and caution. Only seek this procedure at top international hospitals and allow extended time for recovery and monitoring.

Cardiology
Cardiology focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of heart problems and disorders including coronary artery disease, heart failure, and valvular heart disease. Cardiologists measure heart beats, perform heart stress tests and carry out electro-physical studies.

Cardiovascular Surgery
Surgery on the heart and major blood vessels or arteries. A surgeon in this field will perform heart transplants, repair heart valves, and treat ischemic heart disease. They also perform coronary artery bypass grafting.

Dentistry & Orthodontics
Study, diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the oral cavity. Dentistry includes repairing or improving the condition or appearance of teeth. Orthodontists fix incorrectly positioned teeth as well as jaw alignment. Common treatments include crowns (caps) and bridges, dentures, chipped or cracked tooth repair, dental implants, fillings, veneers, and tooth extraction. The American Dental Association’s position on medical travel for dental treatment is at this link.

Fertility Treatment
Fertility drugs are the main treatment for women who are infertile due to ovulation disorders. These medications regulate or cause ovulation. Treatments include stimulating ovulation with fertility drugs, intrauterine insemination (IUI), and surgery to restore fertility. Common fertility treatments include in vitro fertilization (IVF), IFV with donor sperm, and IVF with bastocycst transfer.

Gastroenterology
Gastroenterology deals with problems of the entire digestive system from the mouth to the colon. Gastroenterologists treat abdominal pain, celiac disease, irritable bowl syndrome (IBS), pancreatitis, gallstones, and problems of the esophagus.

Health Screening
Many hospitals offer a formal health screening program as a preventative health service and as a way to introduce patients to the resources of the hospital. The typical health screening at an international hospital is very different from a physical in the U.S. in that it’s much more comprehensive and informative. Screenings include vitals, blood work, urinary analysis, and a chest XRAY, abdominal ultrasound, and heart stress test followed by a full review with the physician. They often come with additional cancer screening options such as a colonoscopy or mammogram. Often marketed as an ‘Executvie Health Screening’, they are a wonderful way to gauge your health status and learn about the hospital.

Opthalmology
Opthalmology is the diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases. This includes glaucoma surgery, cataracts surgery, cornea transplant, retinal detachment repair, laser vision correction surgery, orbital surgery, and lens implants, as well as general eye inspections.

Orthopedic Surgery
Orthopedic surgery deals with problems of the musculoskeletal system including the knees, hip, shoulder, spine, elbow and hands. Typical treatments include knee replacement, knee ACL reconstruction, hip replacement, shoulder joint separation repair, slipped disk repair, and hand surgery.

Plastic Surgery
Plastic surgery deals with the reconstruction and cosmetic improvement of facial and body blemishes caused from birth, trauma, or unrelated surgery. Common treatments include tummy tuck, breast enlargement, scar management, skin treatments, nose reshaping, and eyelid aesthetics. Many treatments are done on an outpatient basis and several hospitals are dedicated only to cosmetic surgery such as Yanhee Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand. The International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS) offers guidelines for plastic surgery tourists at this link.

Caution: Plastic surgery is a medical tourism specialty that requires extensive research before choosing a medical clinic and procedure. Remember that plastic surgery is REAL surgery. While many plastic surgery procedures may seem routine and uncomplicated, there are many potential risks that can result in severe complications. Always choose top international hospitals and doctors for plastic surgery treatment, especially any treatment that requires anesthesia. Avoid multiple procedures at the same time and NEVER undergo a marathon plastic surgery program. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons outlines the dangers of plastic surgery tourism here.

Tropical Medicine
Tropical medicine treats common diseases acquired in the tropics including dengue fever, malaria, cholera, and hook worms. Dengue fever is prevalent throughout the tropics and affects many people in urban areas such as expats and tourists. Caused by a mosquito bite, the disease requires immediate attention and may require a hospital stay.