Going Abroad for Weight Loss Surgery - Obesity Surgery Guide

Many people choose to go abroad for obesity surgery.  There are several reasons for this which includes lower cost, attractive location, and chance to combine this with a short ‘holiday’; no waiting list and so on.  This has become the case with cosmetic surgery so why not with obesity surgery?   

This can seem like an attractive proposition but things can still go wrong.  If you pay for an obesity procedure, fly back to the UK and then something goes wrong, are you prepared to return to the country where you had the surgery?  This will mean more time and expense.  And, due to the easy access to treatment it is tempting to think of obesity surgery as purely ‘cosmetic’ whereas in reality it is major surgery for a medical condition not for reasons of physical enhancement.  

If your PCT is unable to fund this type of surgery or you are looking for a cheaper alternative then there are plenty of overseas clinics who will cater for this.  Many of them offer attractive packages and when faced with a procedure which is half the price you would pay in the UK then it is difficult to resist.  Beware: cheap does not always mean good. 

However, this does not tend to include aftercare: aftercare and/or follow up sessions are the most important part of obesity treatment.  The surgery is just one aspect of it.  Once you have had the surgery then you are part of an ongoing programme which monitors your progress post-surgery as well as providing nutritional advice, information about exercise, supplementation and so on.

If, for example, you have had gastric banding, you will require follow up visits for adjustments or ‘fills’.  That’s standard procedure here in the UK but does it apply in other countries?  If you have been abroad for gastric banding are you prepared to fly out several times a year for these adjustments?  Do they actually provide this service?

There are cases where many overseas surgeons and clinics do not provide any aftercare.  Plus, several of them have agreed to operate even though someone is not suitable for this type of surgery.  UK surgeons have very strict guidelines and criteria which they use when deciding upon a patient’s suitability for surgery.  As weight loss surgery can be risky they need to make sure that someone is fit enough to undergo this surgery without it causing any major complications.

Unfortunately there have been cases where people have undergone surgery even though they were not a suitable candidate.  The surgeon has agreed to operate but complications have arisen which means further treatment.  If this has been carried out overseas then very often it is NHS surgeons who have had to correct these ‘mistakes’.  They also have to treat people who because of a lack of any overseas aftercare are now left with serious, long term health problems.

And to just sound another note of caution: there are many places overseas which are offering ‘cheaper’ obesity surgery which can be hard to resist but are they there to help you or to generate a profit?  A reputable clinic or surgeon will consider the needs of the patient and will adhere to the international guidelines on obesity surgery.  Unfortunately, as in all walks of life there are a few unscrupulous clinics who will persuade you to have the surgery even though you are clearly not suitable.