Doctors and Hospitals in Mexico

Monday, July 28, 2014

Preparing and Recovering from Bariatric (Weight Loss) Surgery in Mexico

One of the most common procedures that Americans come to Mexico for is bariatric surgery, commonly known as weight loss surgery. Since weight loss surgery is normally not covered by health insurance, patients have to pay for it themselves. In the US, the costs of this type of surgery are so high that it's out of the reach of many people, or it would require a big chunk of their savings or cutting back in other expenses. This and the quality of the service of Mexican doctors, who typically have studied in the US, cause many Americans to decide to have their surgery in Mexico.

However, bariatric surgery is invasive, and in order to get long-term benefits, you should prepare for it.

Obviously, your doctor will have to evaluate you and take some tests. In general, you need to be in a reasonable good condition in order to be able to qualify for the surgery. You also need to be within a certain weight range, which will depend on your age, gender, and other factors. Your doctor may ask you to follow a certain diet for a period of time (from a couple of weeks to a couple of months) before the surgery. Alcohol and tobacco are typically restricted as well. It is important that you follow the instructions of the doctor to the letter, as making "exceptions" may lead to complications during or after the surgery.

Another good idea is to find out what type of medications you'll be taking and decide where to obtain them. They might be cheaper in Mexico, but you may not be able to bring enough of them to the US, or depending on the specifics of the law, none at all! Sometimes the name of the brand is different in Mexico than in the US. If you prepare, you won't find that you run out of medication or that you can't bring them into the US. In addition, the law is very strict and you can find yourself having to pay a hefty fine (or risking jail time) for something as innocuous as bringing back a small bottle of antibiotics, so this is one aspect you should definitively research about in advance.

If you plan to do any sightseeing in Mexico, do it before your surgery, always keeping in mind your dietary restrictions, specially alcohol.

Right after the surgery, it's common to feel nausea. You may be asked to stand up and even walk a little to avoid the formation of blood clots. Your doctor will instruct you on when you can start to move and how. Expect to wait at least a week before being able to move normally (although without great physical efforts), but even then you may still feel a little pain or discomfort. You might find it convenient to move to a hotel rather than staying at the hospital. One with a gym would be better, since you will have to follow an excercise routine, consisting mostly of walking. A treadmill will allow you to walk without going far from your room.

Your diet will have to be very restricted for a few days. You'll have to start with a liquid diet, broth, apple juice, tea, protein drinks, water, jello, etc. Coffee and milk are usually not an option. As the days go by, you'll be able to eat more solid food.

Sleeping may be an issue. Depending on the type of surgery, you'll have to avoid sleeping on a specific side. You'll have to train yourself to sleep on the other side. If, unfortunately, it's the same side you've always slept on, you may want to start the training while you're still back at home.

Finally, bring something that you can amuse yourself with. A couple of books or a laptop can greatly enhance your experience. I personally recommend a small Spanish phrasebook. Mexicans in hotels and hospitals will speak to you in English, but taxi drivers or other people might now. However, even if all you can say is "buenos días, me llamo Robert Ervin," that's more than enough to please Mexicans, who always love when Americans show they have made an effort in learning a phrase or two in Spanish.


Robert Ervin is a freelancer who writes about healthcare, medical tourism, and living in Mexico.

If you're considering traveling to Mexico for healthcare or retiring in Mexico, you may want to  get yourself a copy of The English's Speaker's Guide to Doctors and Hospitals in Mexico in order to find a good doctor or hospital in the main towns and cities of Mexico, or The English Speaker's Guide to Medical Care in Mexico, to understand how the Mexican healthcare system works.

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