Living in Tamarindo

Medical Tourism in Costa Rica : ACL Surgery

As many of you know I’ve been an avid soccer player for all my life. Unfortunately, my time has been cut short on the field as a result of persistent knee problems. Back in 97 I experienced the first of my knee issues tearing my ACL and meniscus. It was huge blow to my playing prospects in college. Not that I felt I had a chance at playing Division I soccer. But it would have been nice to try my hand at a walk on a tryout. Either way I ended having the surgery and didn’t see a soccer field really for another 5 years until after college for a number reasons (specifically too much partying).

My playing career resurfaced not too long after I graduated from college. Playing mostly pick up games in local parks. It was so reinvigorating to be playing again. I forgot how much a competitor I was. At any rate enough with the nostalgia let’s get back to the point of this post. About 3 years after I began to play I destroyed the ACL in my other knee.

The incident happened around 2005. Unfortunately, I choose the wrong orthopedic Dr. to go to for a consultation, Dr. Bartolozzi. I choose him because he was the most decorated sports ortho Dr. in Philly, working with numerous professional sports teams. After waiting 4 weeks to see this acclaimed Dr. I was told that I had partially torn my ACL. Dr. Bartolozzi informed me that all I needed to do was stay off the knee for 6 months and I’d be fine. Well I waited 6 months and threw my knee out again. Little did I know it would take me almost 5 years before I’d attempt to get surgery.

So from 2005 til the present I haven’t been able to play soccer. I had planned on getting it addressed in the fall of 2007 but I ended up taking the job to come to Costa Rica. Before I made the move, I made sure that my company would cover my health insurance.

I did a lot of research on health care options for people living abroad. Apparently there were more than I had anticipated.

Health Insurance in Costa Rica


The 3rd option is to get a private insurance carrier. This is the route I ended up taking. After a lot of research I decided on HTH Worldwide. The insurance coverage I have takes care of me in the US as well as anywhere in the world. The monthly payment runs $336 a month.

After being here 2 years and getting as many waves as possible I decided it was time to get the operation. l was very conflicted over doing it in Costa Rica or the states. It was all ignorant fear about getting surgery in a 3rd world country. So one day at work I decided to turn off the voices and picked up the phone. I called the insurance company to find out the facts.

HTH Worldwide was really informative. They gave me all the necessary details I needed to make an educated decision. Basically, I could choose any Dr. within their network or outside of their network. I could also choose any hospital within Costa Rica. However, if I elected to have it done in the United States I would have to stay within their network and be limited to the Dr.’s choice of hospital.

O yeah, and if I had it done in Costa Rica there would be no deductible. If I choose the US I believe there was going to be $1,000 deductible. It’s fairly obvious why that is considering the issues insurance companies are facing now in the US.

At this point it was a no brainer on getting it done down here. Now it was a matter of deciding on a Dr. and hospital. There are two very well known and well respected hospitals in San Jose for operations like this, Cima and Clinica Bibilca. Of the two, I was informed that Biblica was the best suited for orthopedic surgery.

Medial tourism in general is very common for Costa Rica. People travel from the US for operations ranging from dental care, heart operations, knees, hips, and more. So much so that Biblica has another website strictly dedicated to international patients that can be found here. After search around the site I decided on Dr. Oscar Oeding, a specialist in orhtopedics.

I scheduled an appointment with him to examine both knees. Upon my arrival to the appointment, I just so happened to walk past Biblica’s office for medical tourism. The name of the building that it’s located in escapes me a the moment. At any rate it’s in the ground floor of one of their to buildings that has their main cafeteria. Thankfully, I decided to pop in and let them know that I was going to see Dr. Oeding. I wanted to make sure everything was squared away with the insurance company before I did anything. The last thing I wanted was a hospital bill for $5K.

They informed me the insurance company had not contacted them as they said they would. So one of Biblica’s reps got on the phone with my account manager immediately and worked out a wire transfer for $3K to cover my visit and subsequent MRI’s. What would have taken me 4 weeks in the US took a matter of 30 minutes for the money situation to be sorted out. After receiving confirmation that the money was in Biblica’s hands I went off to see Dr. Oeding.

After seeing him he ordered me to get 2 MRI’s, 1 on my left knee and 1 on my right knee. After reviewing them he informed me that I would need reconstructive surgery on the ACL in my right knee and potentially some work done on my left meniscus.

We scheduled the operation for November 2, 2009. When the day finally arrived I was a little nervous to say the least. Doing something this serious in another country would give anyone second thoughts. Everyone at the hospital was very nice and generous. I think they could tell that I was a little nervous. Below is picture of me in my operation gear.

Pre ACL Surgery in Costa Rica

Pre ACL Surgery in Costa Rica

There is definitely a lot less hand holding in this country when it comes to stuff like this. I literally did not see my Dr. until after the anesthesiologist gave me a shot to knock me out and I was on the verge of passing out. The reconstruction of the ACL involved taking a graph of my hamstring. An animated video of what’s involved can be found here

The operation only took about 2 hours. I ended up staying for 1 night. I felt so good that we ended up heading back to Tamarindo the next day. I really can’t say enough about the Dr. and the staff at Biblica. They were really amazing and made us feel right at home. The food and care was excellent.

I’m here to say that it was one of the better decisions I’ve made in the last few years to get the operation done here. Don’t have any doubts about your False, Emotions, Appearing, Real, when it comes to getting surgery in Costa Rica.

The final bill was little over $6K. I’m fairly sure this operation in the states is in the ball park of $15K. Recovery is going well and I’m shooting for the fall to be playing again.

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10 Responses to “Medical Tourism in Costa Rica : ACL Surgery”

  1. Peg Tigue says:

    My word, guy! You are certainly your father’s son!!!!!
    Loved the update about your surgery.
    Had a call this afternoon from a friend of your Dad’s trying to find him. Seems it would be his 50th celebration of graduating from Fordham. Upset me but he was a lovely man and said so many had been asking him to reach out and find your Dad.

  2. Tamarindo Author says:

    Thanks Aunt Peggie. Glad to hear you enjoyed it.

    Wow that is very depressing. However it’s like you said, it’s amazing to hear so many people still think about him. I miss him dearly….

  3. Mary Lou Andersen says:

    Patrick, this is a great write up! I know that Americans believe they have the only great healthcare and deserve to hear more of your kind of experiences. There needs to be better underswtanding of cost to benefit!

    I loved you narrative. You are agood story teller…reminds me of someone.

  4. Jane Ruggiero says:

    Hey Patrick, really enjoyed reading this. Very informative. I, too am having difficulties with my rt. knee. Have been informed I will need a knee replacement when the pain gets to a point that I ask for it to be done. Love the pics!

  5. Tamarindo Author says:

    Hey Aunt Jane,

    Thanks for reading. Glad you enjoyed it. Good luck with the knee. At the end of the day the hesitation with the operation was stupid unfounded fear. I’m so glad I got it taken care of finally. When your time comes just go through it.

    Miss you!

  6. Abby says:

    Wow, this is great. I have yet to need medical attention here! I’d heard care was good here, as long as find the right hospital, but this really spelled it out. I moved to Coco in August. Good to hear from someone blogging on our side of the country. I look forward to more postings!!

  7. Janice Henning says:

    Try more like 20-30K for self pay!!! I have no insurance except a dirt bike accident policy for 5k. I’m looking at going to Costa Rica or Gadalajara for the ACL reconstruction surgery.

  8. Ellery Bledsoe says:

    Hi Patrick,
    Your story definitely struck a chord with me! I’m also a lifelong soccer player so can relate to this scenario. If possible I’d be really interested to hear more about your experience with surgery in Costa Rica. My email address is Cheers

  9. Lora says:

    Hi there!

    I turned 30 on March 1st, 2011. For my birthday my parents treated me to a ski trip to sun valley. The day before my birthday, the last run of the day, I took a turn for the worst and tore my ACL. When I arrived home to Portland I went to see an orthopedist and the full tear was confirmed. Mind you, I am a full-time student and I have no health insurance. In june 2011 I was given an opportunity to receive surgery from an Hospital that I volunteer at OHSU. They said that I could receive full coverage in the window between july 2011-January 2012. I was so ecstatic! I immediately contacted the Orthopedist and they informed me that they were no longer taking patients of “my kind” for another 3 years… needless to say, I was extremely frustrated to get this news..
    Now, November, 2011, and I have still not received surgery. I am now beginning to think that it might be best for me to travel abroad to receive the surgery. I actually lived in CR for three years and have a lot of faith in their care system for the most part.
    Long story short, I found your right up to be very helpful and I appreciate the link that you shared for Clinica Biblica. I am wondering, did you use your hamstring? I was considering hamstring or cadaver.. How has your recovery been?
    Thanks again!

  10. Lora says:

    write up 🙂

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