Are you considering traveling to another country for medical care because the costs are lower than in the US…or because an experimental treatment is available there? Cancer treatment, dental care, fertility treatment, organ and tissue transplants and surgeries—specifically bariatric, cosmetic and orthopedic surgeries—are the most common types of procedures that Americans seek abroad. Steps to take before you head out…

Seek advice at home. Consult your health-care provider and a travel medicine specialist four to six weeks before travel. Discuss the risks you may face. You can find a travel medicine specialist through the International Society of Travel ­Medicine (

Research foreign providers before committing. Don’t rely solely on the information provided by medical-tourism companies. Research the accreditations of the foreign medical facilities as well as the training and board-certifications of the health-care providers.

Accrediting organizations for facilities: The Joint Commission International…Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care…and International Society for Quality in Healthcare (ISQua).

Accrediting organizations for providers: Many countries have their own equivalent of the American Board of Medical Specialties that you can search.

Also: Know what services are included and whether post-procedure care is covered. Confirm that you’ll be sent home with a record of your treatment.

Find out whether your destination is safe. Review travel health notices and State Department warnings at Use the “destination” drop-down on the homepage to check by country.

Prep for travel. Make sure you’re current with all routine vaccinations, such as tetanus, as well as any immunizations recommended for travel to your destination. Bring copies of your medical records, test results and prescriptions as well as the medications themselves.

Make an emergency plan. Get international health insurance for travel with medical evacuation coverage. This is important should you develop a serious complication and need emergency ­repatriation to the US. Work with an insurance agent to be sure you’ll be covered for the most likely contingencies.

Plan your recovery. It is not safe to fly for seven to 10 days after many forms of surgery. Also, the chances of developing a blood clot—an air-travel risk under any circumstances—can be heightened after a surgical procedure.

Understand the downsides. Medical tourists may be at a higher risk for complications such as infections—from hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV to wound infections and resistant bacterial and fungal infections. Experimental treatments might not have any proven benefits, and the drugs used might not have gone through FDA-level testing. Medical providers might not have the credentials that they would need to practice in the US or might not adhere to our safety practices. A transplant can be particularly risky if donors aren’t thoroughly screened and if anti-rejection drugs and other medications aren’t given properly. Also, if complications develop, you might not have the same legal recourse you would if you received care in the US.

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