Your Friends Need Never Know

Your Friends Need Never Know

“You step onto the plane, sit back, and close your eyes,” writes Editorial Assistant Kaitlin Yent. “You imagine sipping a margarita on a sunny beach, sightseeing in a fascinating new country, and enjoying it all knowing that you’re going to look 10 years younger when you get home.

“This is the promise of the growing number of organizations offering cosmetic surgery at bargain prices in tropical locales.

“Medical tourism is one of the fastest-growing tourism industries in the world right now. Countries in Latin America, Asia, Europe, even Africa are competing to offer advanced treatments and procedures, often performed by American-trained doctors and specialists using state-of-the-art equipment, for a fraction the cost you’d pay in the United States.

“The opportunity to go on a surgery vacation that is safe and a great bargain is available right now in more than a dozen countries. How to choose? The best prices are probably to be found in India, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore, but, if you’re based in the Americas, these places are half a world away. The cost of the flight could offset the savings on the surgery.

“Latin America is the far more accessible choice. Brazil has built a reputation as a top option for cosmetic surgery, but medical tourism to this country for non-elective surgeries is not as common.

Panama, on the other hand, offers dental surgery, cosmetic surgery, and all types of non-elective procedures. Plus it is very close the States, less than a three-hour flight from Miami, and has become recognized in the international medical arena as offering modern, safe, state-of-the-art facilities and care, especially at its Hospital Punta Pacifica, which boasts an affiliation with Johns Hopkins Medicine International.

“A friend from Canada, Julie, came to Panama recently for a much-needed vacation. Julie has 5 children and 10 grandchildren and, as she put it, wanted to ‘lose herself for a little while.’

“In the neighborhood where Julie was staying, she noticed a cosmetic surgery clinic. On a whim one day, she stopped in to inquire about the cost of an eyelift and couldn’t believe it when the staff explained that the cost was US$400 per eye and that she would be in and out of the clinic in the same day.

“Julie booked the procedure for the following week. It was quick, painless, and very successful. When she returned home, everyone commented on how fantastic she looked, her friends all saying that the vacation had taken years off her face. Julie never told them about the surgery, and none of them ever guessed.

“Julie’s experience was spur-of-the-moment. Yours can be more organized.

“One of the first medical tourism companies to open in Panama was Panahealth (, today the leading facility in the country with more than 100 specialists in 24 fields of medicine, all of whom have trained and worked in the United States or Europe.

“Panahealth provides both state-of-the-art medical care and all-inclusive vacation packages. They act as travel agent, personal driver, and in-country concierge, even providing you with a personal assistant and a cell phone during your stay. They book your hotel, take you shopping, arrange for sightseeing, even spa treatments. This is the Club Med of medical tourism.

“What could you have done and how much cheaper could it really be than having the procedure performed in the United States, for example? Here’s a comparison of costs for some the most common surgeries offered by Panahealth:

Surgery Average Cost
in U.S.
Average Cost with Panahealth
Bypass with heart valve replacement US$75,000-US$140,000 US$13,500
Coronary artery bypass US$70,000-US$130,000 US$10,500
Hip replacement US$33,000-US$57,000 US$5,500
Knee replacement US$30,000-US$53,000 US$7,000
Face lift US$10,500-US$16,000 US$2,500
Gastric bypass US$35,000-US$52,000 US$8,500
Prostate US$10,000-US$16,000 US$3,200

“Panahealth’s support doesn’t end after the surgery. Following the procedure, you are assigned a nurse who cares for you through recovery (which you can spend lying by the pool and in your hotel room enjoying room service).

“Once your doctor has cleared you for travel, Panahealth contacts your primary health care provider back home to update him on your condition. Then you’re driven to the airport to catch your flight back home, where you can impress your friends with the whole new you.”

Kathleen Peddicord