Should I go to India to get my vasectomy reversed?
May 1, 2009 1:57 PM   Subscribe

Should I go to India to get my vasectomy reversed?

I'm thinking about getting a vasectomy reversal. Here in the US this procedure costs about $10,000. However, I have heard of people going to other countries (e.g. India) for minor outpatient surgeries at significantly less cost while receiving the same level of care.

Does anyone have any recommendations on where I can go to get this done for a lot less than $10k? Has anyone out there gone abroad for surgery or other medical procedures?

Has anyone out there in MeFi land had a vasectomy reversed (whether here in the US or abroad), and what did you think? Did it work?
posted by bengarland to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The second hand information I have is that you are in a lot of pain after the operation. Can you see yourself staying in India until the pain has resolved?

I don't know how long the recovery is, or if the discomfort involved in a 14 hour flight would be significant for you.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 2:01 PM on May 1, 2009

If getting a vasectomy reversed is important to you, why is it not worth $10k? You'd rather risk your testicles and your health for an other-side-of-the-world operation to save a few grand?

What I'm trying to say is this: your health is worth more than what you would save by this back alley operation.
posted by unixrat at 2:09 PM on May 1, 2009

Just because it takes place in India doesn't make it a back-alley operation. There are many doctors and clinics in other places in the world that rival or -- gasp! -- are even better than what we have in the states.

I've not gone overseas for surgery, but it sounds like a good plan to me. Just plan on staying in a hotel in India for a few days after the operation; it would still be cheaper than paying full price for the surgery here.
posted by chowflap at 2:11 PM on May 1, 2009 [6 favorites]

I'd not see any problem with doing this. I'm not worry a whit about medical cleanliness at a well-run clinic in India. Probably better than many in the States. You are aware of what the surgery entails, so it's not like having a face transplant. You'll have the plus of better (or easier to get prescribed) drugs, excellent cuisine, and lovely people.
posted by dawson at 2:15 PM on May 1, 2009

I'm not implying that India has worse care, the only stipulation that bengarland laid out had to do with getting the cheapest surgery possible.

This is not the intelligent way to search for health care.
posted by unixrat at 2:18 PM on May 1, 2009

significantly less cost while receiving the same level of care
does not equal "the cheapest surgery possible" IMHO
posted by dawson at 2:20 PM on May 1, 2009

Just as you would in your home country, research the specific hospital and doctor you are considering using abroad. Ask about the hospital's safety record, as well as the doctor's experience level. Ask about rates of complications for your type of surgery. Then, make a decision that balances the risks and benefits, medical and financial, of your choice of surgeon.
posted by decathecting at 2:21 PM on May 1, 2009

Google results indicate the cost in Canada would be around $5,000. YMMV.
posted by GuyZero at 2:29 PM on May 1, 2009

They call this "medical tourism" and "surgical tourism." While I have not looked at India, other countries boast facilities with doctors who received their training right in the United States. NPR did at least one bit on it, although theirs was for Thailand.

Some countries boast better surgical expertise in certain areas than others. For example, China does pretty well with burns — lots of folks still using old wood stoves there to work on. Getting sexual reassignment surgery or facial feminization? You want Thailand.

Just because it is not the United States does not mean that your surgeon will be wearing a filthy set of old gardening gloves and the nurse will be holding a penlight muttering "hold still" while the anesthesiologist just keeps feeding you poppers.
posted by adipocere at 2:38 PM on May 1, 2009 [4 favorites]

Hopefully this won't put a jinx on your nuts, but here's something to add to decathecting's List Of Things To Research:

What processes are in place to deal with the possibility of something bad happening? In the US, you'd have a well-oiled (some might say too well-oiled) malpractice suit machine to help right surgical wrongs. Is there a similar system in India? Does it perform well in cases of medical tourism?

As you say, this is a minor outpatient procedure and the risk of complications is relatively low, but it would be better to research it before you end up needing it. Forewarned, forearmed; scouts, prepared; etc.
posted by CKmtl at 2:48 PM on May 1, 2009

Response by poster: It seems like the price of a reversal in the UK is ~$3,000. Is this price valid for anyone, or do you have to be a UK citizen and paying into their healthcare system?
posted by bengarland at 2:50 PM on May 1, 2009

As a general rule, elective surgery isn't covered by national healthcare systems. Vasectomy reversal isn't covered by OHIP in Ontario - it's $5K out of pocket whether you're a visitor or the Premier. I would guess (but I don't know) that it's the same in the UK.

Also, you're aware that some people can't have their vasectomy reversed because their immune system has started attacking the sperm that are reabsorbed into the body or scarring on the vas deferens? There's a non-zero chance that you won't be fertile again.
posted by GuyZero at 2:55 PM on May 1, 2009

How much is a plane ticket to India?
posted by rhizome at 2:57 PM on May 1, 2009

After a brief google around, the cost in the US seems to vary widely, between a few grand and $15 000. Is your $10k an actual quoted price?

And yeah, folks, drop the whole schtick that non-US healthcare = bottom of the barrel. Yes, you have to research the quality and add up all the costs. But if you think US treatment is always top-notch...well. You obviously haven't had the pleasure of getting it outside of US borders! And anyway, this is NOT a thread on whether or not foreign healthcare is or CAN be quality.
posted by barnone at 3:00 PM on May 1, 2009

Hospitals that specialize in "medical tourism" in India and elsewhere are often accredited by The Joint Commission, the same body that accredits hospitals in the US. Look for this accreditation when you are considering a foreign hospital.

A good option in India is Apollo Hospitals. They have several hospitals in India. Another possibility is Bumrungrad International in Thailand. I don't know whether either of these hospitals do vasectomy reversal. They do a lot of more high-risk types of procedures like joint replacements, transplants, and cancer treatment (not that I'm saying a procedure involving your manhood is not high-risk).

There are also services that will arrange the whole trip for you - connect you with the hospital, travel, lodging, etc. After a quick google search: WorldMedAssist and MedRetreat.

I have not actually had a procedure abroad, but I have done some research on this. The primary thing to consider is that many of these countries lack the mechanisms for redress that the US has (i.e., you may not be able to sue your doctor or the hospital if things go wrong). At a JCI-accredited hospital, with a surgeon who is experienced with vasectomy reversals (ask how many before you go under the knife, and ask for success rates), your risk of things going wrong is probably equivalent to a procedure in the US.

I am not recommending any of these hospitals or services. Just givin' info.
posted by jeoc at 3:03 PM on May 1, 2009 [4 favorites]

Medical Tourism Ass'n
posted by bbranden1 at 3:08 PM on May 1, 2009

And anyway, this is NOT a thread on whether or not foreign healthcare is or CAN be quality.

isn't that actually the basis of the question the poster asked? i can't actually find any other subtext in "should i go to india to get my vasectomy reversed". he's not asking for travel tips or if india is nice this time of year. he seems to be specifically inquiring if the process is safe and of a certain quality.
posted by nadawi at 3:21 PM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

It's pretty well established that safe and effective and even top-notch healthcare exists in countries that are not the US, at costs that are less than US prices. The poster knows this ("I have heard of people going to other countries (e.g. India) for minor outpatient surgeries at significantly less cost while receiving the same level of care.") and is asking for a) recommendation of specific places and b) experiences of those who have had a vasectomy reversal whether in the US or abroad, and c) experiences of people who have gone abroad for surgery or healthcare.

The question is not "can surgery or healthcare in places that are not the US be effective, safe or worthwhile at a lower cost." Because if it was, the question is pretty emphatically, YES IT CAN BE, and pay attention to doctors, regulations and all of the costs added up.
posted by barnone at 4:09 PM on May 1, 2009

You do need to factor in the travel and accommodation costs -- for a second person too -- and that might make a major dent in the $$ savings. The general aftercare guidelines recommend bed/couch rest for a couple-few days after the procedure and generally inactivity for a few days after that. So you'd need somebody with you to fetch icepacks, keep you fed, do errands, carry luggage, make sure you take your meds on time. It seems like stuff you should be able to do yourself, but it's really not.

When I had more major semi-outpatient surgery a few thousand miles from home (still in the US), I had some complications requiring hospitalization, and even a normally rugged hyper-organized self-sufficient assbutt like me could not possibly have negotiated all the travel rearrangements etc. in my then-puny condition without my best amigo to shoulder most of it.
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:48 PM on May 1, 2009

Having been in the position of having a (non-testicle related) surgery go horribly wrong, I would highly recommend being as close to home as possible and have a relationship with a doctor that can be of service as you proceed through the healing process.

No one ever personally thinks procedures will go poorly for them. Those horrible situations are only for the schmucks in the 3.2% or whatever. But you know what? It can happen to you. Of course, it can happen in the US, but if it does, you have a whole support system to help you. If you've had complications with surgery or a procedure in the past, feel free to ignore this advice. But if you have not, then take it from someone who has been in the 1.1%. It's not all about money.
posted by milarepa at 5:23 PM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Another thing that you should consider is malpractice liability. Here you have fairly extensive remedies for damages. Do you have that there? It's part of what you're paying for in the US. I know that a personal insurance product to provide comparable protection exists, but have no idea what it costs.

Also, would you family etc be able to come help you if things went badly? What's the rate of infection post operation? Either way, I'd want to stay a while to make sure I had avoided complications; I wouldn't want to be on a 20 hour flight to LAX when I noticed redness and burning around my stitches. This isn't meant to be a comment on the quality of care wherever you end up; bad outcomes happen everywhere. Similarly, a few days beforehand to make sure that I was adjusted to the local environment seems prudent.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 8:29 PM on May 1, 2009

Best answer: It may be possible to find docs in the US who reverse vasectomies for much less money out of strongly held religious beliefs.

I have some friends in the Seattle area (who are in no way, shape, or form fundamentalist Christian) who were going to fly to Texas to have his vasectomy reversed by a fundamentalist Christian doctor who felt he had a mission to render men fertile again. As I recall the cost of surgery+travel costs was far less than having the operation done locally, although I don't remember specific dollar values.

As it happens they ran into money problems and called to cancel because they couldn't pay for it...the clinic called back shortly and said they'd do it for the cost of the deposit only, because of their commitment to their religious mission. So that's what they did.
posted by Sublimity at 8:37 PM on May 1, 2009

The biggest concern I've seen raised over medical tourism is the subject of follow-up care-- if something goes wrong and needs to be corrected, make sure you know your doctor's AND your insurance carrier's rules about whether or not they'd be willing to step in for any aftercare treatment/expenses.
posted by availablelight at 4:00 AM on May 2, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for all of the advice. It seems like, on the whole, I might not be able to save a ton of money after all once the cost of a flight (and second person) is factored in. Plus, like many of you said, it might not be worth the risk, either.

I think at this point I am going to do some more searching around to find a U.S. doctor who can do it for a budget that I can handle. There is one doctor an hour's drive from me that will do it for $5800 all inclusive, and it seems that (as Sublimity suggested) other doctors will do it for much less as part of a personal/religious mission to restore fertility.
posted by bengarland at 5:07 AM on May 2, 2009

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