Minimally Invasive Surgery: Key Enabler of Medical Tourism

Physician and hospital innovation plays a critical role in reducing procedures’ impact on the body thereby reducing recovery time.  As physicians substitute minimally invasive surgery (MIS)  for “traditional” surgeries, they also increase the medical tourism option for patients.

One example is coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) in which a blood vessel from one part of the body is grafted onto a vessel near the heart.  The traditional procedure involves splitting the sternum and a 6- to 8-inch incision hospital recovery time of 5 days and full recovery time of 6-8 weeks.  The minimally invasive option for heart surgery, when appropriate, involves a 2 to 4 inch incision, hospital  recovery time of approximately 2-4 days, and full recovery time of 2-4 weeks (We Care Health Services).  Although MIS is applicable only in certain situations, it is clear that it can make traveling for care more practical.

Another case that was recently announced in Dubai was a Laparoscopic Total Mesorectal Excision (TME) to remove a cancerous tumor.  Prof. Iyad Hassan, the Head of General Surgery at Al Ain Hospital is a specialist in MIS and suggested this approach to the patient who did not want the traditional approach that was recommended elsewhere.

Similarly, the Dubai Bone and Joint Center (DBAJ) proclaimed to have completed the first minimally invasive spinal fusion surgery (MISS) while implementing the Axial Lumbar Interbody Fusion (AxiaLIF) technique in the region.  MISS is used in order to ensure minimal trauma to the soft tissue of the spine surrounding the point of incision of the lumbar fusion surgery.  Dr. Zbiggy J. Brodzinsky, MD, who led the surgery, commented:

The duration of surgery is less than an hour with AxiaLIF compared to the usual time that is four times longer. It also reduces the hospital stay dramatically, as patients can be released from the hospital a day after the surgery. Under normal course, this could run to three to four nights, followed by a one- to two-month recovery period.

As physicians gain experience with minimally invasive surgery, traveling for treatment—both domestically and internationally—will continue to grow.  Patients can benefit from lower cost of treatment, minimal trauma, quicker recovery time, and increased choice.  Providers benefit because they can draw patients from a larger geographic area.

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