Chapter 4 Page 6 | Other Cosmetic Procedures

Hair Implants

Hair implants involves the transplantation of thousands of tiny patches of hair-bearing scalp tissue to the balding areas of the head. Results vary from patient to patient and are by no means guaranteed. Though Costa Rica’s Dr. Cohen mentioned that he does not see as many hair transplant patients as he once did because transplantation has become less expensive in the United States, research indicates that there is still a substantial “overseas discount” of 25 percent to 50 percent. Hair transplant prices are generally based on the number of hair/skin grafts done. U.S. prices range upwards from about $3,000, depending on the extent of the work.

Ear Pinning (Otoplasty)

Prior to research, I’d had no idea that fixing protruding ears was a popular cosmetic procedure. Otoplasty is the general term for cosmetically enhancing the appearance of the ears. Roughly 25,000 U.S. residents underwent some sort of cosmetic surgery of the ear in 2004, according to ASPS statistics. Prices in the United States range from $2,500 to $4,000; prices abroad range from $800 to $1,500.

Weight Loss Surgery (Bariatric Surgery)

Bariatric surgery that is designed to cause significant weight loss is increasingly popular in the United States. The surgery alters the digestive process, either restricting the amount of food the stomach can hold or causing food not to be absorbed. There are several different procedures and techniques with more continuing to evolve. The intestinal bypass was the first and is still the most common in the United States.

There are eight recognized types of bariatric surgery including laproscopic bariatric surgery, bariatric bypass surgery, and vertical banded gastroplasty (VBG). Bariatric surgery is considered a drastic lifesaving solution for a major health problem. In this instance, it is covered by some medical insurance plans and prospective patients in the United States who have health insurance are generally well-advised to explore the option with their insurer. However, many patients do go abroad to afford the surgery. For those interested in bariatric surgery and wondering where to start, I recommend without qualification the Obesity Help website (, an online support group that boasts more than 200,000 members.

Dental Procedures and Appliances

My personal experience with going abroad for costmetic surgery is limited to dental work. It is ironic, perhaps, I did far less research prior to going to Costa Rica for full-mouth reconstruction than I now recommend that others do before making a decision. Readers interested in the extensive details of my own experience should visit my Web site Beauty from Afar (  Since having my work done in 2004, I have recommended at least dozens of patients to Drs. Cordero and Rubinstein at Prisma Dental in Costa Rica.  Invariably, however, I point out that there are other excellent dentists in Costa Rica and around the world, and I urge prospective dental patients to thoroughly explore their options at home and abroad before making a decision.

Dental insurance in the United States rarely covers the full cost of extensive cosmetic work. There is certainly little reason to go abroad for routine dental work. However, when the prospective out-of-pocket expense for wanted or needed dental work climbs into the thousands of dollars, going overseas can become the pragmatic option.

Generally, dental patients do not require extended convalescence abroad, or significant immediate after-care and support, as do medical surgery patients. Costs range widely based on various dental proceedures, but my general statement that patients can expect to save from 40 to 75 percent on medical services abroad holds true for dental work. Many cosmetic surgery patients abroad opt to get at least minor cosmetic dental work, such as teeth whitening, done on the same trip.



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