David H. Kim, BSc; Caroline E. Sheppard, BSc; Christopher J. de Gara, MB, MS; Shahzeer Karmali, MD, MPH; Daniel W. Birch, MSc, MD
Many Canadians pursue surgical treatment for severe obesity outside of their province or country — so-called “medical tourism.” We have managed many complications related to this evolving phenomenon. The costs associated with this care seem substantial but have not been previously quantified. We surveyed Alberta general surgeons and postoperative medical tourists to estimate costs of treating complications related to medical tourism in bariatric surgery and to understand patients’ motivations for pursuing medical tourism. Our analysis suggests more than $560 000 was spent treating 59 bariatric medical tourists by 25 surgeons between 2012 and 2013. Responses from medical tourists suggest that they believe their surgeries were successful despite some having postoperative complications and lacking support from medical or surgical teams. We believe that the financial cost of treating complications related to medical tourism in Alberta is substantial and impacts existing limited resources.
Accepted for publication July 14, 2015
Affiliations: From the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alta. (Kim); the Centre for the Advancement of Minimally Invasive Surgery, Royal Alexandra Hospital, Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alta. ( Sheppard); the Bariatric Revision Clinic, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alta. (De Gara); and the Weight Wise Bariatric Clinic, Minimally Invasive Gastrointestinal and Bariatric Surgery, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alta. (Karmali, Birch).
Competing interests: None declared.
Contributors: All authors contributed substantially to the conception, writing and revision of this article and approved the final version for publication.
Correspondence to: D.W. Birch, Rm 502, Community Services Centre, 10240 Kingsway Ave. NW, Edmonton, AB, T5H 3V9; firstname.lastname@example.org