Florida plastic surgeon warns of medical tourism risks: 'It can be very, very dangerous'

U.S. citizens are on high alert after four Americans were kidnapped after crossing the border into Mexico last week. The minivan they were traveling in came under fire and the group was thrown into a truck and taken away by armed men. On Tuesday, officials said two of the Americans were found dead, and the other two alive. 

The group was reportedly traveling for health services, part of a growing trend called medical tourism.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year, millions of Americans travel to Mexico, Canada and countries in Central and South America for procedures. 

"Incredibly popular. It’s actually a multi-billion dollar industry," Dr. James Shoukas of Lake Mary Plastic Surgery said. "From a medical standpoint, it can be very, very dangerous for a multitude of reasons. Different standards in different countries, so not all countries have the same medical standards that we have here in the U.S. You open yourself up to different risks such as different infection rates, different medications available."

In addition to the health risks associated with medical tourism, travelers should also consider the destination. 


"You know, the U.S. government issues warnings from the CDC, to the department of state, all issue warnings about where you’re traveling, what you’re having done, certainly traveling to an area or a region that has higher crime rates, Shoukas said.

The U.S. Department of State has issued a level-four travel advisory for the state of Tamaulipas, the same place the four kidnapped Americans were traveling. Now, a ‘Do Not Travel' warning is alerting Americans of organized criminal activity and kidnappings.

"There are certainly good doctors here in the U.S. I certainly understand that price point can be an issue for a lot of patients, but if you are planning on traveling overseas, you’re going to have to do your research," Shoukas said.

If you do plan on leaving the country for medical care, Dr. Shoukas suggests you do a few things to prepare: research the doctor and facility, make sure the area is safe and meet your healthcare provider before the day of the procedure. 

"These are serious decisions that have major consequences. You really can’t put a price on your health," Shoukas added.