Our Friend’s Experience Getting Knee Surgery in Mexico

Our friend, Carolyn, was kind enough to agree to share the details of her recent knee surgery in Playa del Carmen with our readers. This is her story…[cue the intro music].

Relief Was a Long Way Down the Road

Carolyn is originally from Canada and has suffered from knee pain for many years. She saw an orthopedist in Canada who gave her a cortisone shot that relieved the pain, at least temporarily. When the pain returned, she returned to her primary care doctor and was given another referral to an orthopedist. The earliest appointment that she could get was three months later.

When that appointment finally rolled around, the orthopedist recommended a knee replacement and scheduled it for January of 2021. That’s not a typo, folks, I meant to write 2021.

Looking for a Better Solution in Old Mexico

We know Carolyn because she’s a member of our expat community and divides her time between Canada and Mexico. When she returned following the disappointing news from the orthopedist, she decided to see what Mexico had to offer and contacted the Arthros Centro de Ortopedia y Traumatología in Playa del Carmen. She was able to get an appointment the same day and was examined Dr. Omar J. Garcia Contreras. That was on October 22, 2019

Pay close attention to the timeline as we move through the rest of the story.

Dr. Garcia sent her for an MRI in Cancun which was done on October 25, 2019. Before leaving the center, Carolyn received a disk of the results and the radiologist emailed a report to both her and her orthopedist. She was surprised to see that her copy of the report had been translated into English.

Immediately after the MRI, she sent a Whatsapp message to her orthopedist and he told her to stop by his office on her way home to go over the results.

By the way, it’s not unusual for doctors in Mexico to give their patients their personal cellphone numbers so they can contact them directly.

Dr. Garcia said that he didn’t believe that a full knee replacement was warranted and recommended laparoscopic surgery to repair the meniscus and bursitis around the knee cap. He said he could schedule it for the following week.

Carolyn agreed and underwent surgery at a private hospital in Playa del Carmen on October 29, 2019.

Following the two hour procedure, she was moved to a private hospital room to recover. She said the room was very nice and she even had her own bathroom. She was released later that same day.

On November 1, 2019, she returned for a follow-up appointment with Dr. Garcia. The knee was healing nicely and he recommended that she start physical therapy at the clinic on November 5, 2019, which she did.

How is Carolyn’s Knee These Days?

I asked Carolyn this very question today via Whatsapp. Here was her response: “My knee is feeling great no more limp!!! Very happy that I did it! I had no medical coverage for this, it was out of my pocket! So much better then having an unnecessary knee replacement!”

How Much Did This All Cost?

Carolyn doesn’t have any health insurance in Mexico, so this whole thing was 100% out-of-pocket. Here’s a breakdown of the costs along with the total:

Initial Consultation with the Orthopedist: $700 pesos

MRI: $4,988 pesos

Lab Work: $820 pesos

Surgery, Including a Private Hospital Room: $48,000 pesos

Medications: $1,000 pesos

Physical Therapy: $500 pesos for the first visit, $400 pesos each session after. Carolyn went to three sessions.

Grand Total: $56,808 pesos ($2,960 USD*, $3,915 CAD*)

* Based on current exchange rates of 19.19 MXN/1 USD, and 14.51 MXN/1 CAD

Contact Information for the Doctor

During my first year as a blogger, I rarely ever mentioned specific doctors in articles like this, but I found out quickly that that’s what some folks want, so here ya go:

Dr. Omar J. Garcia Contreras

Arthros Centro de Ortopedia y Traumatología

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/ortopediaytraumatologiaplayadelcarmen/

Phone: +52 984 879 4603

Let’s Wrap This Up

Since arriving in Mexico over four years ago, Linda and I have been continually impressed by the quality and cost of private healthcare in Mexico. From our own experiences to those of our friends, we have seen a system that is fast, affordable and consistently provides exceptional patient care.

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About the Author

Qroo Paul
Paul Kurtzweil (Q-Roo Paul) was a deputy sheriff in Florida for 25 years before retiring at the rank of lieutenant in 2015. He and his wife moved to Mexico looking to maximize their retirement income. They later started a blog called Two Expats Mexico (qroo.us) to share their experiences as well as information about the logistical and legal aspects of retiring south of the border.

36 Comments on "Our Friend’s Experience Getting Knee Surgery in Mexico"

  1. Sara Grynspan | November 15, 2019 at 5:29 pm |

    Thank you for this blog. Eye-opening and impressive!!! The cost in Canadian dollars is relatively inexpensive. Considering months of wait-time, then physio, with follow-ups with doctors and specialists. Good for her!

  2. Paul thanks for sharing this experience. This is just another example of why I love Mexico.

  3. Paul as always offering helpful stories. So nice that Carolyn let you do this article which is a wealth of information.

    Do you believe the cost of her surgery would be the same for someone only having a Vistors FMM?

    • I asked and Carolyn said that was the regular price. In Mexico, emergency care for tourists can be pricey at a public hospital because of some predatory billing going on but elective procedures are normally reasonable. Also, you can negotiate the price in some cases.

  4. Thank you thank you!
    This article reinforces my decision to move to MX.

  5. Debbie Aguirre | November 15, 2019 at 5:41 pm |

    So happy for her and her care sounded great! She has zero Mexican insurance but was still seen.

    • This was a great story one question for you can you get Mexican Health Insurance & how much does it cost? And if you are from the U.S. can you also keep your Medicare coverage too?

      • The cost of private insurance varies depending on your age and the deductible you choose. Many expats get expat insurance and you can keep the cost low but not including coverage where medical costs are high like in the U.S. That’s what we do and then get travel insurance when we visit the Old Country. Linda and I paid $3,516 USD for private insurance this last year. Fortunately, we never had to use it and the minor things we were seen for (including me getting some stitches in my head following a fall) were so inexpensive that we never even met the deductible.

  6. Good for her and probably for me too. Way to go Mexico.

  7. What ever the cost would have been, then she should be able to claim that amount back from her provincial health care provider as long as she still is a resident.

  8. Cassandra Garcia | November 15, 2019 at 5:56 pm |

    Great story! I had a slip and fall accident on a slippery ramp after a rainstorm in Merida last August. I broke my left patella in half, a serious injury. I went to Centro Medico de las Americas, had emergency surgery the next day with an excellent surgeon. The entire bill was $3800 usd. Wow. I also had twice weekly physical therapy for 3 months for $200 usd.

  9. Michael Cadue | November 15, 2019 at 6:02 pm |

    It would take me a long time to explain our experience. Suffice to say we are Canadian Expats who live close to Tulum
    My wife had a heart issue at our home in Chan Chemuyil. Ambulance arrived quickly, took her to Costamed Clinic in Tulum. She was stabilised and by ambulance we went to the Costamed hospital on Cozumal that night.
    Over the next few hours she had every test known to medicine and a procedure the next day that fixed the problem. She spent 4 days in the hospital ( I was allowed to sleep in her room and fed by the hospital). She was discharged and returned to our home in Chan Chemuyil with a follow up appointment in 1 week. All this would have taken forever in Canada.
    We found out later her heart specialist ( Dr. Rapheal Moguel) was an Internationally known heart surgeon and an awesome person that we stay in touch with.
    He also took my wife of meds that were prescribed in Canada because they were making her condition worse.
    We returned to Canada with all her test results on a CD and recommendations for her heart specialist in Canada.
    The Canadian specialist said she was very lucky to be so close to the amazing care she received.
    Now all of this was paid for by our Canada health insurance company but we were told that if this had happened while in the US it would be a bill in the mid 6 figures. It was $ 78000 TOTAL in Mexico.
    Lucky and amazed!

  10. Lewis Williams | November 15, 2019 at 6:48 pm |

    Amazing! Thanks for sharing!

  11. Thanks for sharing your blog. Another Canuk here. Last December, on the first night of our vacation, I was rushed from Secrets Akumal to the private hospital in Playa del Carmen, and underwent emergency surgery the next morning. It was thought that my appendix had burst, but turned out to be much more serious. To the surgeon’s dismay, the appendix had burst some time previously, and was shriveled up. The entire area surrounding it was abcessed, and there was a risk of fatal infection. This resulted in a four day hospitalization, being bombarded with antibiotics. The care I received was top notch; they literally saved my life, and I’m forever grateful.
    Perhaps we should’ve used our provincial health care coverage, but decided to pay with our credit card, which covers medical insurance for up to 15 days. The total cost was $27,000.
    The only problem we experienced (and it’s a big one), was with the intrusion of a mandatory third-party insurance company in Mexico, which caused needless delays in “approving” every stage of treatment. My poor frustrated husband was required to contact our credit card company on several occasions to request coverage for each phase of treatment. A VISA agent in Toronto would then be required to contact the third party insurer, rather than the hospital directly. The third party insurer would be the one to contact the hospital with authorization for each billable service. Sometimes the authorization call took hours to receive, causing stressful delays for staff and patients alike.
    Other tourists in the hospital were experiencing the same challenge, and colourful language could be heard ringing throughout the ER as this crazy game of waiting went on and on.
    When we returned home, I contacted VISA to express my concern regarding this unnecessary bureaucratic system, and was told it’s a huge frustrating problem for them, and they’re working hard to get it modified. I sure hope so. My advice to travelers is, check your coverage and be sure to ask about lurking third-party insurers. Yikes!
    Regardless, I’m hoping to save up $$ and return to Secrets Akumal, as I only had two precious days at this beautiful resort, upon release from hospital on my 60th birthday. The staff there were so kind to us both, and made my last two days feel very special.

  12. Claude Martin | November 15, 2019 at 8:42 pm |

    Had a badly lacerated and broken (5 Places) right thumb while sailing down the Pacific Coast of Baja. Went to an orthopedic surgeon between San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas and he quoted me $6,000.00 USD to repair. Don’t get sick or hurt in that area. Flew to San Diego and the surgeon there decided to let it heal on it’s own as it had been 12 days after the accident before we made landfall.

  13. This was another great post with great information. Thanks. I / We are very impressed with the Health System here in Motul and in Merida. Works well and is affordable.

  14. As always great information!

  15. Thank you for posting this with specificity. Great job Paul. Oh, and Like Laura Savard above, I agree with Secrets Akumal being amazing. My 2nd fave resort in Mexico!

  16. I think the medical system here in Mexico is great but in defence of our Canadian system, please understand it is a big country and details like this vary from place to place. I was able to get cortisone shots within a week of asking and my orthopedist scheduled my knee replacement surgery 3 months out after the determination was made that I needed it. The cost to me, over and above what we already pay in taxes, was $00.00 US and $00.00 Canadian. It isn’t fair to give the whole country a bad report. I have also had 2 surgeries in Mexico and was happy with the results, with the hospital, staff and doctors.

  17. Great information.

    Quick question – how do you decide what doctor to see? Referrals/word of mouth or is there some information online about reviews, being boarded in a specialty, etc?

  18. Robi Smallwood | November 16, 2019 at 10:57 am |

    I also have a great Mexican experience. After almost 20 years of mostly extream knee pain the knee gave out in Mexico. . I knew the wait in Canada as very long so I decided to see a specialist that was recommended in Puerto Vallarta. He was extreamly diligent and explained all the problems were genetic in origin. Within a week I had a full knee replacement at the cost of $8000.00 usd. It was worth every cent. It is almost two years and the knee is great

  19. Kristia Snider | November 16, 2019 at 11:15 am |

    Excellent info (as always). Thank you!!

  20. A month before we were moving permanently to Mexico (San Miguel de Allende), my husband developed a hernia. We thought we should postpone our move and get the hernia repaired. He asked his Canadian doctor how long it would take to have hernia surgery. He told him at least 6 months to get an appointment with a surgeon, and then maybe 1 year or 2 to get the surgery. So we left Canada and moved here. I asked 3 doctors here that we knew and they all recommended the same surgeon. Then our landlady said that the same surgeon had done a great hernia operation on her brother. I phoned for an appointment on a Tuesday; he saw us on Thursday; and was ready to operate on Saturday. My niece in Ontario had a friend who had had hernia surgery in Toronto at a hospital that specializes in hernia surgery and she declared that the hernia surgery that my husband had here was much more techologically advanced with a better recovery than the surgery her friend had had in Toronto at the hospital that does only hernia surgery.

  21. Patricia Wolf | November 16, 2019 at 2:45 pm |

    You can also go to Antigua, Guatemala . Antigua , Guatemala does alot of Dental and medical procedures in private hospitals and many from Canada have gotten things done there because of the long waits needed in Canada.

  22. Paul Arsenault | November 16, 2019 at 2:51 pm |

    I have had 3 joint replacements in Canada each summer for 3 straight years. Maybe because it was Prince Edward Island Canada,s smallest province. Also many people don,t know that cost of medical expenses in Mexico can usually be covered in Canada if you bring receipts to your provincial health department. Up to the amount it would cost in Canada and as long as you have not been out of Province for more then 6 months.More in other provinces .

    • Thanks for sharing that, Paul. Another reader left a comment that her expenses may be reimbursed in Canada. I let her know and she is super excited to try. 🙂

  23. …meanwhile, just earlier today – I called my Dr.’s office about a rib bruise or break I had gotten a few days ago. I was told to go get an Xray and bring it in. Went to get Xray (5 minute waiting time). Went to his office (close by) – another 5 minute wait – and was out in 20 minutes after a consult and exam. No break, just a bruise – back to tennis!
    Total time = less than 1 hour. Xray cost 340 pesos.

  24. Carol Hubbard | November 16, 2019 at 6:47 pm |

    Hi Paul. I subscribe to a couple of other Patreon-funded blog sites. Encourage you to consider adding a $2 a month level. Thanks.

  25. Just chiming in. I recently had a hernia repair in Bucerias, Nayarit, Mexico. I paid out of pocket, but was able to use my Health Savings Account funds from my US bank (an HSA is tax free savings for medical expenses, can also be used for retirement money after 60 yrs old or so). The surgery was open, not laparoscopic, though that was available if I chose it. Total cost including all medications was about $48k pesos. Very good doctor who spoke English, brand new hospital, fancy recovery room. Very worth it!

  26. Carol Ann Burrell | November 20, 2019 at 9:59 am |

    I would be interested to learn more about how the dual private/public medical system impacts the quality of care at the public level in Mexico. I am concerned that two levels of care degrades the public system, thereby contributing to growing inequity between the haves and have-nots. For me, this is part of an essential, more fulsome evaluation process about whether I want to live part-time in Mexico in the future.

  27. That is amazing! Thank you for sharing.

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