medical tourism

Should I Go Overseas for Weight Loss Surgery?

With travel restrictions having eased up, you may be considering your options a little more thoroughly when it comes to your gastric sleeve procedure. While medical tourism isn’t new, border restrictions and travel bans due to COVID-19 largely eliminated international travel for the purpose of receiving medical care. As life slowly returns to normal, you may be wondering: should I go overseas to have weight loss surgery performed?

The Cheaper Price May Cost You More Overall

A major selling point for those considering bariatric surgery overseas is that it typically comes with a much cheaper price tag. Choosing to undergo a gastric sleeve procedure abroad to save on initial costs may lead to increased expenses down the line.

A study has shown that when patients had gone abroad for surgery “many… came back with complications that needed to be covered regionally.” . In fact, another study published in the Canadian Journal of Surgery (CJS) estimated costs to the public health system of approximately $560,000 per year in Alberta alone due to complications from bariatric surgeries performed overseas.

Gastric sleeve is considered a minimally invasive procedure and is safe and effective when performed by a knowledgeable team of surgeons. Unfortunately, the CJS estimates a complication rate of 42-56% for out-of-country weight loss procedures. Meanwhile, the study found the complication rate for procedures done locally was only 12%.

Overseas Gastric Sleeve Clinics Not Regulated to the Same Standard

Of course, there are many amazing and capable surgeons abroad with the expertise to perform these procedures.

However, oftentimes medical tourism efforts are led by countries’ government agencies for tourism or trade, rather than the health sector, and they may not have the same health and safety regulations found here in Canada. Surgeons performing the procedure in Canada meet the highest regulatory standards for safety and professionalism, and information about gastric sleeve surgeons are easily available through the appropriate medical regulatory bodies, like the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario. Such physician information and regulatory standards are likely less accessible and understandable overseas than they are in Canada.

Health Canada subjects surgical equipment used in Canada to rigorous quality testing before granting approval. Globally, there are numerous stapling systems, but our regulators have only approved three as safe. The use of cutting-edge, single-use, stapling ensures a high-quality operation. 

Comprehensive and Critical Aftercare Is Not Available

Additionally, weight loss surgery is a bit of a group effort and aftercare is essential to ensure your long-term success. When you go overseas for a gastric sleeve, you end up missing out on critical post-operative care.

At 360 Sleeve, we include a comprehensive 6-year aftercare program for patients. This gives you access to our surgeons for follow-up appointments, as well as our nutritionist and dietitian to help optimize your success. Opting for sleeve gastrectomy surgery in a foreign country may require patients to spend a substantial amount of their recovery period alone. Having a good support system can make a world of a difference after bariatric surgery as you can expect to go through many physical and mental changes. 

Another reason you may be considering weight loss surgery abroad is due to the long wait times associated when going through OHIP. OHIP coverage for gastric sleeve is a little tricky, with patients needing to have a BMI of over 60. Regardless, if you do meet the OHIP criteria for gastric sleeve, the wait time may influence you to seek out alternatives. Luckily, booking with us at 360 Sleeve is a speedy option; we can see you for a free consultation and have your surgery date confirmed as quickly as within one week!

Ready to get started? Our highly experienced Toronto gastric sleeve surgery specialists and knowledgeable care team are ready to support you – book your free consultation today.

Discover how gastric sleeve surgery by our highly experienced Toronto surgeons has supported our patients on their weight-loss journey. Get in touch with us for more information on gastric sleeve or to book your free consultation.