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Medical Procedures Americans Have in Mexico

Every year, thousands of Americans travel to Mexico to engage in what's known as "medical tourism." And Mexico does have a number affordable, high quality, and technologically sophisticated medical facilities - many in  new, accredited hospitals throughout the country.

However, the primary draw for Americans to go to Mexico for healthcare is cost. Procedures that cost tens of thousands of dollars in the US usually run for far less than that in Mexico - sometimes 90% less. Since insurance doesn't often cover cosmetic surgery, weight loss procedures, or some dental work, this makes medical tourism an appealing option for Americans looking to save some money.

Mexico also offers a number of experimental therapies for cancer and other debilitating illnesses, but this is a far trickier prospect. Many alternative medicine practitioners go to Mexico to practice because they're not beholden to FDA regulations there. As a result, therapies that offer false hope and extreme risk are often carried out on patients who feel they're on their last chance.

As always, consult your doctor and carry out dilligent research before having any of the following procedures done in Mexico.

Medical Procedures Americans Have in Mexico Diseases / Medical Conditions
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    Cancer Treatment

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    American cancer patients often head south of the border for treatment in Mexico. There about three dozen clinics, most near the the US/Mexico border, that have had varying degrees of success using alternative therapies to treat late stage illnesses. They also feature integrative medicine programs, which combine traditional and holistic treatments. The efficacy and safety of these procedures is hotly debated, as proponents claim they work miracles, and detractors saying they offer false hope. Anyone interested in treatment in a Mexican cancer clinic should speak to their doctor first.

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    Weight Loss Surgery

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    Weight loss surgery in Mexico is popular among US medical tourists primarily because it's much cheaper there, and US insurance often doesn't cover procedures like the Lap Band. Pharma company Allergan was able to release its adjustable gastric banding system in Mexico five years before the FDA approved it in America.

    Hospitals and clinics near the border operate on about 100 US patients per month, usually performing gastric sleeve surgery. However, the procedure carries risks, and has drawbacks not found when having the surgery done locally. Consult your doctor.

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    Back/Spinal Surgery

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    Lumbar Dynamic Stabilization is a relatively new treatment for low back injury that involves inserting a small, flexible rod into the spine, rather than the rigid steel rod usually used. While clinical trials are ongoing in the US for the use of LDS systems in the absence of traditional fusion surgery, the procedure is commonly performed in Mexico and Europe. It's been found to be effective, less debilitating, and less expensive.

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    Hip Replacement Surgery

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    Northern Mexico has a number of excellent orthopedic surgeons, including many who have trained in the United States. It's common for American patients to head there for hip replacement, as the procedure is safe, fairly standard, and has a short recovery time. Hip replacement costs in Mexico are much lower than those in the US, often costing between $9,000 to $12,000 - when the same surgery in America runs double or triple that amount.

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    Stem Cell Therapy

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    While stem cell therapy has been proven to be an effective treatment for a number of illnesses, it has limits on what it's able to do. However, some physicians have been experimenting with a number of stem cell therapies using Adult Autologous Stem Cells (A-ASC) that are not approved in the FDA for use in the US.

    These procedures can be effectively carried out in Mexico for less money and with less restriction - but have been criticized for being risky, not well studied, and having harsh side effects.

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    Plastic Surgery

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    Because of lower costs, Mexico has emerged as a hotbed of cosmetic surgery, featuring a number of board-certified cosmetic surgeons who can perform everything from a tummy tuck and breast augmentation to liposuction. Many surgeons located near the US/Mexico border primarily treat American patients. However, there are also unlicensed clinics that perform the procedures for extremely low prices - often with poor results. Be dilligent in researching any clinic where you're considering surgery.

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    PresbyLASIK Surgery

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    PresbyLASIK, or Multi-focal LASIK, is an eye surgery that allows patients to retain binocular vision, the ability to see closely and at distance. The procedure is currently in the clinical trial phase in the US and has not been approved for general treatment by the FDA. However, PresbyLASIK has been performed for years in Mexico, and appears to be safe and effective.

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    Dental Procedures

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    Quality dental work can be found south of the US. border in a number of reputable clinics. American patients seeking dental procedures are so common in Mexico that many providers offer a free consultation, including x-rays and a treatment plan with US medical insurance codes for easy price comparisons. The work is well done, safe, quick, and the savings can be substantial.

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    Pharmaceuticals are significantly cheaper in Mexico, providing a low-cost alternative for seniors caught in the Medicare "donut hole. For example, the COPD drug Spiriva can cost $25 per bottle, the diabetes medicine Metformin runs $15 per bottle, and a month's supply of Lipitor less than $30. As with all medical procedures in Mexico, caution is warranted, as some pharmacies have incorrectly labelled or knockoff medication, and it's illegal to import more than a 90 day supply of any medication.

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