Planning Weight Loss Surgery Abroad


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The most important factor in considering weight loss surgery abroad is the research and knowing what type of procedures you require and what aftercare you will need.  It is well worth several trips to the clinic or hospital and taking time over this important decision, even more thoroughly than if you were having treatment in your home country.  Make sure your surgeon is experienced in the area of weight loss surgery rather than cosmetic surgery, which can be the case in some clinics, which also offer plastic surgery.  A clinic or hospital that primarily caters for patients of plastic surgery should be treated with caution, weight loss surgery is a very different type of surgery. 

Do make sure you have a plan if things do go wrong.  Ask the clinic or hospital if there is provision for full follow up in the UK.  Check that the clinic or hospital follows all the international protocols that are in place.  Make sure you ask all the questions you need to and if you are not happy with the answers do more research.  Sometimes the price of surgery can seem ‘too good to be true’ this is because it often is!  It can be easy to develop a blind eye to any potential problems as nobody wants to think about what could go wrong, however planning for any problems will be well worth it.   Take time and choose well, a rushed decision could turn out to cost you your health as well as your money. 

Travelling & Support

Alongside the many issues you will need to research regarding the weight loss surgery procedure, there are also the practicalities of travel.  Post-surgery you may not be very mobile and may need a wheelchair to travel.  It is essential that you arrange to have a friend or family member to travel with you to support you.   Friends and family are important post-surgery to support you through what can be a challenging time.  Often those patients that have surgery abroad forget the benefits of having friends and family there and available.  Some patients feel isolated and lonely being abroad without friends and family to help them through the immediate days post surgery.  Many patients fail to consider how they might be feeling emotionally post surgery and the support they may need from friends and family.  It is common to experience a wealth of emotions after what is life-changing surgery and this should not be underestimated. 

Language Barriers

There is also the issue of language, which is often overlooked.  Just having a few words in the country you are traveling to, would help you greatly.  It is highly likely that most hospitals and clinics will have surgeons and staff that speak English, however knowing the language will benefit you greatly and show that you take the surgery seriously. 

The Journey

If you have a long haul flight home this can be quite uncomfortable post-surgery.  It is recommended that you upgrade your ticket so you can have less cramped and more comfort on your return journey.  Do thoroughly consider all the detail of travel; a small issue such as having cramped seat can be a big issue post surgery if you are in pain and one you should plan for.  Consider all the possible outcomes and plan for them likewise, don’t forget the details of the journey home.  If the flight is particularly long you could consider a stop off for your comfort, which could take the strain out of the return journey.

For many the thought of arranging their surgery abroad can make them feel physically tired and defeated.  There is much to research, plan and organise when you have weight loss surgery abroad.  Some clinics and hospitals can organise much of the logistical arrangements for you, such as setting up consultations, accommodation and travel.  It may be worth paying extra so that you do not have to consider the management of all the arrangements involved.  However if you do sign up for a package where the clinic takes care of many of the arrangements, do look into what you are getting for your money and if it is suitable for you.  Beware of the many hidden costs involved with weight loss surgery abroad, some patients have found they would have been better off staying in the UK in the long term, once everything was paid for.  It is easy to forget all the extra costs such as accommodation, flights, costs of living in the country you are traveling to, phone calls, exchanging money to name a few.

Speak to Others

If you have the opportunity to speak to someone who has had weight loss surgery abroad, grab this opportunity as there is nothing better then hearing about the experiences first hand.  They should be able to share many of their experiences with you and give you some detail on some of the things you may not have considered.  The more opinions and advice you can gather on weight loss surgery abroad, the better.  You can then make an informed decision.  Do use the Internet, but be aware that those people you meet in forums can sometimes not be real people.  It has been known for surgeons or their representatives to go online in these forums to promote their surgeries.  There can be useful information and experiences gained from online forums however, particularly as it can give you access to an international weight loss patient community. 

Research the Country, Hospital & Surgeon

Weight loss surgery abroad is showing rapid growth, along with cosmetic surgeries abroad.  The improvement in standards and competitive packages available as well as the many new countries opening up offering weight loss surgery have all led to this rise.  Due to the increase in cheap flights, many destinations, which seemed too far, are not reachable.  One of the first decisions to be made with weight loss surgery abroad is where to go, which country? Gather as much information as you can on each country and compare the prices, travel fares, surgeons and aftercare.  The hospital or clinic may have a website which would be a good first step, however the information on the website is most probably going to be quite limited.  Make contact with the hospitals and clinics you are interested in, try to talk to the surgeons who would be operating on you.  Ask if they offer an initial consultation in the UK, many of the bigger hospitals and clinics do.  The more groundwork you can do to compare and contrast all the options the better.  However flying out to numerous different countries to speak with surgeons is not viable for most weight loss surgery patients.  Make as many preliminary enquiries as you can from the UK.  Some doctors and surgeons may be prepared to fly to the UK to meet you, this helps put many patients at ease about the good practice of the clinic or hospital.  The more you can do from home, the more money you will be saving in the long-term, money which you are bound to need after the surgery for your aftercare.  Always meet your surgeon face to face and ask all the questions and queries you have about the procedure and aftercare.  This meeting is really crucial and is a must.

Some patients can be influenced by the location, particularly if the website is full of tropical beaches and sunsets.  Remember this is not a holiday but a serious operation that will affect the rest of your life.  Although it can be tempting to go to a country for its weather and scenery the competency of the doctor and standard of care is of prime importance.  Remember the further you are the more the fares will be and if your time in hospital gets extended this may influence your decision due to the time away from home and traveling time involved.  It is a good idea to do some research into the local costs, prices of transport, food…etc.  This should be easy to find out and well worth it if you and your family need to have an extended stay in the country. 

Research all the Costs

Comparing costs is particularly difficult when you start looking into all aspects, such as transport, accommodation, surgeon fees, costs of aftercare, flights etc.  Try doing a costing exercise where you make a list of all the costs you can think of and draw a chart comparing the costs.  This should make it easier for you to compare.  Lots of information gathering and research is necessary in order to start comparing costs, there are some helpful websites out there that can aid this process.  Do find out in some detail what is provided, for example some hospitals and clinics arrange to collect patients from the airport while others don’t and you may have to manage on public transport.  It is important to understand what the costs include, having a checklist of all the costs and then checking each one is included is a good idea.  Always get everything clarified in writing before paying any fees. 

Some patients feel particularly isolated and lonely when they are many thousands of miles away from home after the surgery.  When all has been researched and worked out do listen to your instincts about how you feel about being so far from home.  Some patients find the lowest priced option abroad in a far-flung destination only to feel very lonely at the thought of being so far from family and friends after surgery.  It is worth paying a bit more if it means you can benefit from the support of friends and family at a challenging time when you are likely to feel fragile and weak and adjusting to change.  Most importantly consider all the factors involved before making a decision, it is not something to be rushed into and with so many options available there is no need to rush into anything.  The process of finding a hospital or clinic, surgeon, deciding where to go is all very bewildering but there is help at hand in the form of guides, websites and literature on the subject.  Take advantage of all the help and advice on offer and you will be armed to make a good decision about weight loss surgery abroad. 


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