Lap Band - Mexico versus US for cash patients

Lap-Band Surgery MexicoMexico has become a popular destination for many US lap band patients. The cost of lap band surgery in Mexico is about half of what it costs in the US, making it a more affordable option for cash paying patients. An average cost for lap band surgery in Mexico is $8,000-$8,500, whereas in the United States it could easily cost $16,000 and higher.

Many of the lap band patients who have had their surgery performed by a facility in Mexico have been happy with their decision, but making this choice involves many other important considerations. It is important to thoroughly research the doctors and the facilities before making a decision on your surgery, as well as arranging pre- and post-op testing, making travel plans, and finding a fill doctor. Some of the important factors to consider are:

  • Choosing a Surgeon
  • Hospital or Clinic
  • Pre-op and Post-op Testing
  • Type of band
  • Transportation and Travel Arrangements
  • Finding a Fill Doctor

Choosing a Lap-Band Surgeon

There are many qualified doctors in Mexico, where doctors have been performing lap band surgery since 1991. (It was not approved by the FDA for use in the United States until 2001). Whether you are choosing a doctor in Mexico or America, however, it is important to research the experience, skill, and reputation of the surgeon who will be performing your surgery. Make sure you verify all information about the surgeon for yourself and that you read plenty of patient testimonials. One site that can be of help is where you can research lap band doctors.

Hospital or Clinic

For your own peace of mind, you will probably want to find out if the surgery will be performed in a clinic or a hospital. For some lap band patients, the choice does not matter, but for others it might. Many clinics provide a safe and clean environment, but a hospital may be better equipped to handle any complications (though quite rare) that might happen. This is just a choice of personal preference, but something important to find out ahead of time.

Lap Band Surgery Mexico

Pre-Op and Post-Op Testing

There are some very basic tests that should be performed both before surgery and after surgery to ensure your safety. These tests should not be overlooked and as a patient you should make sure that the appropriate testing is done. It is your health, make sure the doctor is following safe medical practices and not trying to cut costs in the wrong places.

The basic pre-op lab tests that should be done BEFORE surgery include:

  • complete blood count
  • chemistry panel
  • urine test
  • EKG
  • chest x-ray

AFTER surgery, and before you are sent home, it is very important that the doctor administers a barium swallow. A barium swallow ensures that the band placement is correct, fluid is moving thru the stomach opening properly, and there are no unexpected medical problems. It also helps you as a patient to see the band working with your own eyes.

When you are sent home, you should be given the films from your barium swallow. They may be helpful to the doctor who is performing your first fill if you are not returning to Mexico for your fill appointment. You should also be given the results from your pre-op lab tests.

The doctor who is willing to overlook these basic tests is probably not the surgeon you want performing your banding procedure.

Type of Band

Worldwide there are about half a dozen brands of adjustable gastric bands, but only two are approved for use in the US by the FDA. The band manufactured by Inamed Health, commonly known as the LAB-BAND System, was approved in 2001. The Swedish Band, a product of Johnson & Johnson which is marketed in the US as REALIZE Band, was approved in September 2007. Doctors in Mexico may use bands other than those approved for use in the US in order to use a less expensive product, but this can cause difficulties with your fills and aftercare.

If you don't receive the Inamed LAB-BAND, it may be difficult to find a fill doctor for your aftercare support in the US because they do not yet have experience with the J&J band. If you receive a band other than the Inamed or J&J gastric band that does not have FDA approval, the doctors in the US will have trouble with the licensing boards if they work with a non-FDA approved device.

Make sure you take the type of band into consideration and ask if you are getting the Inamed LAP-BAND. If you are told you are getting this product, you should be given the empty box, an instruction book, and an ID card showing the size and type of band you have.

Transportation and Travel Arrangements

In choosing to have lap band surgery in Mexico, you will need to work out travel plans and have a current passport to get back home. It is also a good idea to bring a support companion with you so you don't have to handle everything on your own. You will need to consider 1) driving plans or airline tickets 2) transportation from the airport to the hospital or clinic 3) hotel accommodations. Most doctors provide a cab ride from the airport and include a hotel room for your stay as part of your surgery package. Make sure you confirm these plans ahead of time with the doctors office and that you plan sufficient time for travel, pre-op testing, surgery, and recovery.

Finding a Fill Doctor

Before surgery, make sure you work out arrangements for your fill appointments. If you will not be traveling back to the doctor in Mexico for your fills, make sure you find a doctor to perform your fills within driving distance of your home. Some US doctors will not see you if you have had your surgery in Mexico, especially if you do not receive a band approved for use in the US. Make sure you work out your fill person BEFORE having surgery in Mexico.

Support and Aftercare

Achieving weight loss success with the lap band is more than just having the product placed during surgery. While the low cost of surgery in Mexico is a draw, it is also important to consider aftercare, fills, and the support you need after surgery. Many lap band patients have been happy with their decision to have surgery in Mexico, but this is your health. After you have considered all factors, make the decision that you believe is best for you.