Medical Tourism in Brazil

Information about the medical tourism industry in Brazil, including a list of common procedures available...

Brazil has been a pioneer in the development of medical tourism; it has long had a reputation for plastic surgery and esthetic treatments and was a "health travel" destination for visitors from the USA and Europe long before medical tourism became an industry.

São Paulo: A Medical Tourism Destination

Recent growth and stable institutions have contributed to technological developments in the area, with much of Brazilian health, research and teaching concentrated in São Paulo. The city is recognized by the United Nations as one of the 47 world centers for technological innovation.

São Paulo has a network of hospitals, many accredited by the Joint Commission International (JCI), the Canadian Council on Health Services (CCHSA) and the Brazilian Hospital Medical Quality Organization (ONA). The first hospital in the world, outside of the USA, to be accredited by JCI was the São Paulo Albert Einstein Hospital.

Many of the large hospitals in Brazil are teaching and research centers. The Hospital das Clínicas (HC) is associated with the University of São Paulo Medical School, which is ranked as the top university in Latin America by the Times Higher Education 2008 World University Rankings.

In the area of plastic and esthetic surgery (as opposed to medically necessary surgery), São Paulo is second in volume only to the number of surgeries practiced in the USA. Compared to many other countries, Brazil's lower prices and shorter waiting periods contribute to this. The hospitals catering to this market generally have amenities similar to those in a hotel, including cable TV, Internet, good food and personal attention to patient care.

Hospitals and medical treatment

It is important to find the hospital and doctor that are most suitable and qualified for a specific procedure. There are many options; good starting point for information are hospital websites, which usually disclose doctor specialties and accreditations. Referrals for doctors can be obtained from the hospital or from friends or business acquaintances.

São Paulo hospital websites:

Using a medical tourism facilitator

A specialized São Paulo medical facilitator can help a potential patient ensure they choose an appropriate hospital and doctor for the procedure they plan to undergo. Services provided by a facilitator can include:

  • Recommendations for medical care providers (hospitals, clinics, surgeons and doctors), accommodation, travel and tourism, as well as estimates of potential costs
  • Personal assistance and multilingual staff
  • Preparation of a total budget for client approval
  • Airport pickup and transportation, pre-op accommodation
  • Assistance before, during and after hospitalization with 24-hour availability (via the telephone)
  • Pre-arranging all dates and accompanying a patient to doctor consultations and pre-op exams
  • Arrangements for direct admission to the hospital/clinic for surgery
  • Arrangements for post-operative care

Insurance

Most Brazilian hospitals accept worldwide international medical insurance. Contact the hospital and the insurance company directly for details regarding coverage. Most insurance plans do not yet cover costs of specific treatment abroad (when a policy holder travels for the sole intention of having surgery in another country). Policies are evolving and the insurer should be consulted for the latest information on coverage abroad.

Medical Procedures Commonly Practiced in Brazil

Plastic and reconstructive surgery is a reconstruction of part of the human body, whether due to medical or esthetic reasons, restoring physical function and minimizing deformities

  • Facial plastic surgery/rhytidoplasty: reduces the more visible signs of aging through the removal of excess fat, repositioning of the musculature and removal of excess face and neck skin
  • Eyelid plastic surgery/blepharoplasty: removal of the excess of skin and fat that can accumulate on the upper and lower eyelids, by means of carefully positioned incisions
  • Neck plastic surgery: reduces the skin flaccidness and localized fat below the chin
  • Nose plastic surgery/rhinoplasty: can improve nasal function, correct defects present at birth, fix respiratory problems or improve facial harmony
  • Ear plastic surgery/otoplasty: corrects the excessive prominence and can better define the cartilaginous curves, thus improving facial esthetics
  • Chin plastic surgery/mentoplasty: to correct advanced or retracted chins
  • Breast plastic surgery/mammoplasty: breast reconstruction or the reduction of or increase in breast size, correction of any asymmetries or flaccidness
  • Plastic surgery for reducing male mammas/ginecomasty: corrects the pronounced mammary gland that, due to hormonal changes or obesity, causes discomfort, both esthetic and emotional, for a man
  • Arm plastic surgery/brachioplasty: reduces the flaccidness of skin in the arms, with the removal of excessive skin as well as fat from the lower region of the arms, thus improving the local contour
  • Thigh plastic surgery/crural listing: diminishes skin flaccidness in the internal area of the thighs
  • Gluteus plastic surgery/gluteoplasty: increases or reshapes the backside
  • Abdomen plastic surgery/abdominoplasty/dermolipectomy: reduces skin flaccidness, fat accumulation and muscular weakness in the abdomen
  • Liposuction: surgery that suctions and removes the excessive fat from certain parts of the body. It is performed through minimal incisions
  • Liposculpture: the targeted removal of excess fat followed by the injection of some of this fat in other locations
  • Plastic surgery for formerly obese individuals: reshaping or removal of excess tissue for those who have undergone weight-loss surgery and had significant weight loss

Bariatric surgery (for weight loss): for morbidly obese people; surgery to reduce the amount of food a patient can ingest or digest

  • Restrictive surgery - adjustable gastric band by videolaparoscopy: consists of placing a band or ring around the stomach, thus reducing the capacity for eating food, creating a "small stomach"
  • Disabsorptive surgery by videolaparoscopy: decreases the absorption capacity of the intestine, except for a part of the intestine through which food passes
  • Gastric bypass, roux-en-y or restrictive disabsorptive surgery (Capella) by videolaparoscopy:  division of the stomach to create a smaller one, then attachment of the new stomach to the intestine
  • Intragastric balloon: it is a silicone prosthesis introduced into the stomach through endoscopy.  It is used in minor cases of obesity or overweight persons who do not want to undergo more invasive surgery. The balloon can remain in place for up to six months

Ophthalmology: specialty of medicine that treats eyes diseases, both clinically and surgically

  • Laser surgery: corrects and reduces some ocular problems, improving vision quality
  • Myopia: a visual deficit making it difficult to see objects that are far away
  • Hypermetropia: occurs when the eye is smaller than normal, causing focussing difficulties on objects close to the eye
  • Astigmatism: distorted vision and difficulty focussing which is generally caused by an irregularity of the cornea
  • Cataract: clouding of the crystalline lens of the eye resulting in the blurring of vision

Dentistry: the evaluation, diagnosis, prevention and/or treatment of diseases, disorders and/or conditions of the oral cavity, maxillofacial area and/or the adjacent and associated structures and their impact on the human body

Check-Up: comprises a complete health examination to detect diseases (and conditions), such as cardiac disorders, high pressure (hypertension) and diabetes before they become clinically apparent

Assisted reproduction (fertility): advanced techniques that aid fertilization/pregnancy

Cardiology: the branch of medicine that deals with disorders of the heart and blood vessels

Dermatology: the branch of medicine that deals with the skin and its diseases

Neurology: the branch of medicine that deals with diagnosing and treating diseases involving the central, peripheral and autonomic nervous system

Oncology: the branch of medicine that studies tumors (cancer) and plans and administers the care of cancer patients

Orthopedic surgery: is the branch of surgery concerned with conditions involving the musculoskeletal system

Sports Medicine: a medical field specializing in preventing, diagnosing and treating injuries related to participating in sports and/or exercise, specifically the rotation or deformation of joints or muscles caused by engaging in such physical activities. The primary focus is the rapid recovery of patients.

Urology: focuses on the urinary tract of men and women, and on the reproductive system of males

Related Information

Information supplied by São Paulo Medical Tourism Facilitator SPHERA, worldwide health services, www.brazilmedicaltourism.com / www.spherainternacional.com.br