Medical or health tourism is growing trend for people in the United States and it should be. The U.S. healthcare system is effectively broken and the price tag for procedures like knee replacement surgery, hip replacement surgery, hip resurfacing surgery, and other orthopedic procedures is outrageous. A hip resurfacing or replacement procedure can be as high as $60,000 in the U.S. while that same procedure in New Zealand can be as low as $30,000 and that price includes everything including travel and accommodation.
However… the recent outbreak of the superbug NDM-1 (New Delhi Metallo-beta-lactamase-1) which came out of India recently, should be a huge wakeup call for all people interested in health tourism. While cost is a factor when deciding a health tourism destination, the location – and specifically the medical environment in which your orthopedic procedure will take place – needs to be a major decision criteria. In fact, in many ways it’s more important than price!
At the end of the day, you’re traveling overseas to improve your health or remedy a problem, such as chronic knee pain or hip pain at night. While the quality of the surgeon and hospital are important and easily stated, it’s important to understand and take comfort in the medical environment where your procedure will take place. These are things that a website or advertisement might not bring to light, such as blood supplies, the ability for nurses and surgeons to understand and communicate with you, the practices of instrument sterilization, and general environmental safety.
While most experts agree that superbugs like NDM-1 will spread, part of the reason that they are coming to light is the widespread and unregulated use of antibiotics, which create drug-resistant bugs. One way to prevent catching a superbug is to carefully examine your health tourism destination prior to making your orthopedic surgery decision.
The NDM-1 superbug came out of India, and it’s becoming more common in destinations such as Chennai, Haryana, and Bangladesh. It has also been found in Pakistan. Symptoms of NDM-1 are similar to that of E.coli and include diarrhea, pain and cramping in the abdomen, nausea, vomiting, low grade fever, and urinary tract infection. It can be serious in children, the elderly, or people with weak immune systems. It can be spread person to person.
You can prevent the spread of superbugs like NDM-1 by washing your hands and sanitizing your person and the environment you’re in. Or, don’t put yourself in the environment where these superbugs are coming from in the first place. Choose a first-world country for your health tourism needs such as New Zealand, where there are low incidents of infection. New Zealand has state-of-the-art facilities, English speak, highly-trained physicians, one of the safest transfusion blood supplies in the world, and will still provide a huge savings over orthopedic procedures in the U.S.