Medical tourism in Turkey

4 Mins read

It comes as no surprise that the 3,000-year-old city of Istanbul is one of the most sought-after holiday destinations in the world, but there just might be another reason for the rising number of visitors.

Turkey’s capital, Istanbul, receives a soaring number of tourists each year and the number is only growing! According to official data on the Daily News site, Turkey has seen a staggering 51.9 million visitors in 2019, a rise of 13.7% since the previous year, becoming an extremely popular destination for medical tourists.

Turkey is ranked second in Europe in the number of surgeons, and ninth globally. The reason why it has become such a global attraction for medical tourism can be attributed to many factors, the main one being the wealth of well-educated, talented and experienced surgeons.

Another very important reason for the rising wave of medical tourists in Turkey is the low cost of labour. Turkey is relatively cheap for clothes, food, accommodation, manufacturing. On top of saving your pennies, you get to visit a magnificent historical city, enjoy exceptional weather, world famous food and rich culture all in one at a relatively low price.

Medical tourism in Turkey is a bargain that’s hard to ignore, especially since cosmetic surgery can be very expensive in the UK and the rest of Europe. Even at the time of a global pandemic, Turkey was still receiving a large number of medical tourists.

Flights departing from Turkey are usually full of passengers with bandages wrapped around their heads and noses wrapped in casts, it’s not an unusual scene at all. After all, Istanbul is most popular for hair transplants and rhinoplasties.

The price difference is huge in comparison to the UK. For example, according to NHS Cosmetic Procedures, a hair transplant can cost up to £30,000 in the UK, while in Turkey, hair transplants range between £1,700 to £25,000, according to the Washington Post. This makes Turkey a leading country in the world of hair transplant surgery, with $1 billion (£740m) of business in 2014 alone.

Surgeon operates on a patient

Turkish surgeons provide a wide range of services [Unsplash: Olga Guryanova]

There is always a health risk with surgical procedures, but does the risk increase as the price gets lower? We’ve all heard of surgical procedures abroad that went catastrophically wrong, but there are also the many successful cases resulting in more people traveling abroad for surgery.

Let’s take the rhinoplasty (nose reshaping surgery) for an example. Rhinoplasties in the UK start from £4,000, and that’s without the consultation and follow-up fees; depending on each case, the price can be more costly. Whereas in Istanbul, nose surgery procedures are as cheap as £1,400.

But how safe and successful is cheap rhinoplasty? 26-year-old Yunis travelled from London to Istanbul in December of 2019 for a surgical nose procedure, and warned us: “Research is key! There are so many clinics and surgeons out there”.

Yunis stressed that finding the most trusted surgeons who follow regulations is the only way to guarantee a safer and more successful experience. Research, read reviews, ask questions, get online consultations and do some digging on the surgeon’s background and experience; a process that is highly recommended.

There are many talented and well experienced surgeons in Turkey, but you could also end up at the mercy of an incompetent surgeon and put your health at serious risk.

“It definitely took courage. It’s always a risk undergoing surgery, but it felt like a much bigger risk traveling to a foreign country for a surgical procedure. However, I did a lot of research, I read a lot about the surgeon’s academic background and the positive experience of patients with him,” Yunis said.

“This made me feel a lot more comfortable and confident going forward with the surgery. So, I would definitely advise anyone thinking of undergoing surgery abroad to do an in-depth research.”

Cosmetic surgery in the UK is regulated under the General Medical Council, as all treatments and procedures must be licensed. While cosmetic surgery abroad is regulated and licensed, the rules and regulations are followed less strictly than in the UK.

Dr Sarici is the Turkish surgeon Yunis used in Istanbul for his nose procedure, and he told us they take their patients’ safety very seriously: “Our clinic is very well reputed, and our surgeons have no less than 20 years of experience in the field of cosmetic surgery. Our consultations are very thorough, we ask about the patients’ medical background and take their existing health conditions into consideration, we try to take the best care of our clients.

“We offer accommodation, and someone to accompany the patient to and from the clinic. We also offer follow up checks and we stay in contact with the patient even after they travel back. You can read our reviews; we have a high success rate, and all are clients usually have no complications post-surgery.”

Yunis’ medical journey inspired him to create a platform for medical tourism. Yunis has a degree in biomedical science and is currently studying a master’s in software engineering.

He’s in the process of designing an app that aims to gather the most trusted clinics worldwide and facilitates a patient’s medical journey. He believes that a platform of such could increase safety as more people travel abroad for medical procedures.

“I had to do a lot of research before going, and a lot of my research relied on other patients’ experiences,” he told us.

“I want to create a platform that makes it easier and safer for people traveling for medical reasons, a platform that allows patients to communicate with each other and share their experience and help identify trusted clinics, I think it would make the huge industry of medical tourism a step safer.”




Featured Image by May Al-Faris.
Edited by Sophie Victroia Brown and Jussi Grut.

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