Brazilians take beauty seriously, perhaps to a fault. If, for example, you’d like perkier ears on Snoozie, your family schnauzer, Dr. Edgado Brito, a Sao Paulo veterinarian of 20 years, has performed thousands of cosmetic alterations on pets worldwide—undoubtedly an extreme spillover from one of the world’s most body-conscious countries.
Brazil boasts more than 4,500 licensed cosmetic surgeons, with the highest per capita number of practicing cosmetic physicians in the world. Most international patients head to Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s two largest cities. Smaller destinations such as Recife, Porto Alegre and Santos, are also popular.
Brazil and Medical Travel
Prices vary widely. While the celebrity “surgeons-to-the-stars” command fees comparable to the highest found in the US, dozens of excellent, lesser-known clinics serve patients from all regions and income brackets.
Brazil welcomes most of its 50,000+ medical travelers from neighboring countries (such a Ecuador, Bolivia and Uruguay) seeking access to Brazil’s more robust healthcare system. Patients also arrive from relatively nearby Western and Southern Africa nations such as Nigeria and Angola.
Brazil is home to the internationally revered Ivo Pitanguy, the world’s most renowned plastic surgeon. The clinic and institute bearing his name were established in 1963, and more than 4,000 surgeons have visited there for training, workshops, and continuing education. Pitanguy and his protégés have set the high international standards for cosmetic and aesthetic surgery, now recently challenged by competing clinics and doctors in Korea, Thailand and Costa Rica.
Sao Paulo, the country's largest city, boasts several world-class hospitals, including Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein, the world's first hospital to receive JCI accreditation. Yet, for all its notoriety, Brazil lacks the medical travel infrastructure found in some smaller, less developed nations, such as Costa Rica. The Brazilian government is at long last awakening to international medical travel, with corresponding investment in partnerships, conferences and infrastructure building.
The language barrier (principally Portuguese) looms large, and most of Brazil's 25 JCI-accredited providers have little to offer the English-speaking patient. Nonetheless, health travel services are gradually gaining ground, with growing numbers of conscientious, reliable agents, recovery accommodations, and travel support services. Health travelers’ intent on visiting Brazil should redouble their efforts to work from a base of reliable information or through a trustworthy third-party agent.
For North Americans and Asians, travel times are long and often involve multiple hops. Brazil’s two principal medical travel destinations—Rio and Sao Paulo—are sprawling urban giants with legendary traffic snarls. Crime is a concern—25% of Sao Paulo’s luxury cars are customized bullet-proofed. Thus, patients traveling to these areas should insist upon door-to-door hospitality from their selected facility.
Prices vary widely, and travelers will find cosmetic surgery in Brazil to be generally more expensive than in Mexico, Costa Rica or Southeast Asia. The best-known treatment centers cater to high-profile clients, driving prices to nearly US levels. Thus, when considering Brazil, savings will likely take a backseat to a vacation or retreat.
Note: While some international patients are exempt from visa restrictions, most (including those traveling from the US) will find visas to Brazil remain extremely challenging to obtain. Patients planning to travel there should allow 3-4 weeks for the inevitable delays. While the government is said to be working on speeding the process and extending medical visas to international patients, you would be prudent to contact the Consulate General of Brazil or the Brazilian Consulate in whose jurisdiction you live for current requirements.
Last updated on 9 March 2013