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Health Care in Panama: U.S. Standards for a Fraction of the Cost

Beautiful doctor standing with hands folded and assistant doctor



Does it really make sense to have medical treatments in Panama? My answer: Absolutely.

I’ll give you the reasons why in a moment. First, let me share with you a story about a woman named Sandra, who traveled from Arizona to Panama for surgery and would happily do it again. This is what she told me:

“I had wanted to get my breasts redone for some time. I already had breast implants. But after I had a child in 2000, they had become saggy and misshapen. I saw a plastic surgeon here in Arizona. He told me that I needed a breast lift and new implants, and that it would cost me $10,000.

“I saw an article in the October 2007 issue of Good Housekeeping about medical tourism and about the agents who arrange medical travel. I chose one of them. And the agency booked me with a Harvard-trained surgeon in Panama. I had no problems with the trip. It was no different from flying to New York, except I had to go through customs.

“In Panama, I got a high-quality surgeon whom I could never have afforded in the U.S.  He and his team took wonderful care of me before, during and after the surgery. I saved $4,000 by having my surgery in Panama.

“My husband needs about $12,000 worth of dental work (U.S. prices). Once I pay off my surgery on my credit card, I will accompany him to Panama to get the work done. The dentists there are U.S.-trained and certified, and it will cost us less than half [what the work would cost in the U.S.], including flight and hotel!”

Panama’s hospitals now compete in the global health-care market with highly credentialed doctors, modern facilities and the latest equipment.

Many Panamanian doctors and surgeons are U.S.-trained and board-certified. Treatment specialties here include dental implants, plastic surgery, assisted reproduction, cardiology, cosmetic dentistry and orthopedics.

Panama has two major advantages for health travelers: The U.S. dollar is an official currency, and most Panamanian doctors speak fluent English. Best of all are the prices––medical procedures here can be half what you’d pay in the U.S. or Europe.

Here’s what you need to know about Panama’s major hospitals.


Clinica Hospital San Fernando

In operation since 1949, the 159-bed Clínica Hospital San Fernando provides medical services in radiology and diagnostic imaging, gynecology and obstetrics; respiratory medicine and allergies; oncology; cardiology; nuclear medicine; and urology.

Specialties include orthopedics, general surgery, cardiovascular surgery, ambulatory surgery and LASIK vision correction. The most frequently performed procedures are knee and hip replacements, laparoscopic gallbladder removal and LAP-BAND or gastric bypass surgery.

San Fernando boasts affiliations with Tulane University, Miami Children’s Hospital, Baptist Hospital of Miami, Christus Health and Christus Muguerza. Most doctors here speak English, as do staff members of the International Affairs Office, whose services include 24/7 bilingual assistance, preferred providers’ appointments, preferred appointments for any medical test, a fully bilingual pharmacy that dispenses FDA-approved medications, hotel and air reservations, verification of benefits from U.S.-based insurance companies and coordination with a local tour company for sightseeing. E-mail:; website:

Centro Medico Paitilla

This 166-bed private hospital was founded in 1975. Today, Centro Médico Paitilla (CMP) employs more than 250 doctors and surgeons––many of them trained and board-certified in the U.S. The hospital has an academic agreement with the Cleveland Clinic and is certified as a training facility by the American Heart Association.

During the time when U.S. military bases were operational in Panama, CMP was one of two hospitals authorized to provide medical services to U.S. military personnel and their families. Treatment specialties include oncology, cardiology, vascular surgery, orthopedics and neurology.

Procedures most frequently performed here are open-heart surgery, orthopedic prosthesis implants and cardiac catheterization with stenting. CMP also offers numerous special services within its medicine; pediatrics; surgery; psychiatry; obstetrics and gynecology; odontology; imaging and radiology; and complementary medicine departments. E-mail:; website:


Hospital Nacional

Although the 80-bed private Hospital Nacional traces its history back to a small clinic that opened in the 1970s, the new facility is modern. Services include medical imaging (X-ray, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasound, nuclear medicine and fluoroscopy); angiography; mammography; bone densitometry; endoscopy; physical therapy; hyperbaric oxygen therapy; cardiologic testing (including Holter monitor, electrocardiography (EKG), echocardiography and stress tests); and hemodialysis. E-mail:; website:

Hospital Punta Pacifica

This 101-bed Johns Hopkins-affiliated hospital opened in 2006. It has 52 private rooms, and more than 350 English-speaking doctors and surgeons are accredited to practice here. Punta Pacifica offers supplementary English-language education for all staff. Departments include urology; cardiology; orthopedics; physiotherapy and rehabilitation; gastroenterology; endoscopy; pediatrics; neurology; dermatology; gynecology and obstetrics; nephrology; endocrinology; oncology; and chemotherapy.

Specialties include general and laparoscopic surgery; orthopedics; cardiovascular procedures (including minimally invasive techniques); neurosurgery; colonoscopy; endoscopy; angiography; and plastic surgery. E-mail:; website:

CHART: Costs for Common Treatments*


Cost in Panama                                                                Cost in the U.S.


Orthopedic/Joint Replacement:

  • Knee: $12,000                                                          $30,000
  • Hip: $5,500                                                                $33,000 to $57,000


  • Breast lift/reduction: $1,500 to $3,000       $4,000 to $9,000
  • Facelift: $2,500                                                         From $10,500


  • Glaucoma (per eye): $2,500                               $4,800 to $7,500
  • LASIK (both eyes): $2,500                                  $1,500 to $5,500

* Prices don’t include doctors’ fees.

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