Many people across the world with back problems are considering travelling to Israel for minimally invasive spinal surgery, attracted by the affordability of the procedure there and the high standards of healthcare. A top destination in the ever-growing medical tourism business, Israel is a particularly appealing option for patients who want the reassurance that their high-tech lumbar surgery is in the hands of neurosurgeons renowned for their expertise in this complex procedure.
Minimally invasive back surgery is a relatively new development that has revolutionized treatment of spinal issues, having many advantages for the patient over traditional open surgery techniques. With open surgery, a long incision is made to enable access to the problem area, while minimally invasive spine surgery (MISS) entails strategically-placed smaller skin openings, typically just 2cms to 3cms long, avoiding major damage to soft tissue surrounding the spine. In most cases, MISS results in reduced blood loss, less pain after surgery and a faster recovery, with the added benefit of minimal scarring.
Minimally invasive back surgery techniques have been used in Israel for common procedures like decompression (relieving pressure on nerves) and spinal fusion (correcting vertebrae problems) since the 1990s, but are now being employed across a wider range of lumbar operations.
The minimally invasive approach, which requires only a low level of anaesthesia, involves the use of endoscopic equipment, including a miniature video camera, that allows the surgeon to see inside the patient’s back, allowing a better view than the open procedure.
Procedures that are minimally invasive provide a highly-effective option for patients in cases where non-surgical treatment, such as physiotherapy and medications, has failed to relieve the misery of chronic back problems. According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Burden of Disease (GBD) studies, pain in the lower back is the single leading cause of disability worldwide.
Why is Medical Tourism so Popular?
Contrary to general perceptions, medical tourism (MT) is nothing new. Ancient Greeks travelled to the sanctuary of the healing god, Asklepios, a small territory in the Saronic Gulf called Epidauria, which is regarded as the origin of medical tourism as we know it.
Health tourism has seen a boom in recent years and is no longer focused on people from less-developed countries seeking treatments unavailable in their homeland, but on patient mobility as people in richer countries look to take advantage of health services abroad that are cheaper without compromising on quality. Besides affordability, this shift has been fuelled by the availability of inexpensive flights and an increased awareness of the range of treatments on offer in different countries.
The number of people seeking affordable, high-quality healthcare who are travelling abroad for treatment is rising every year, and the concept of global healthcare is particularly being embraced by people who cannot afford health insurance or who have limited coverage.
The World Health Organization in 2016 ranked Israel as the third most popular medical tourist destination, below the United Kingdom and Canada.
Minimally Invasive Spinal Surgery Expertise in Israel
Many health tourists often remain in the country of their choice to enjoy a vacation after their procedure, which makes Israel – with its host of landmark attractions steeped in history, including the Masada fortress, the city of Caesarea and the Dome of the Rock – an attractive proposition for people seeking minimally invasive spinal surgery, because the relatively short post-operative recovery period allows time for sightseeing aplenty, with hospitalization after the operation typically being just a few days.
Herzliya Medical Center (HMC), a private hospital in Israel, is at the forefront of providing minimally invasive spinal surgery for patients from abroad. It boasts state-of-the-