Surgery in Costa Rica. “Better service, than I have received in places like Houston or San Diego.”

By Rob Goodell


It is no secret that Costa Rica is becoming a popular destination where people from around the world can come and receive state of the art medical care at a fraction of the cost that they would pay for treatment in their home country.

Having personally had two major surgeries and a baby (well, to be honest, my wife had the baby) I consider myself somewhat of an expert on this subject. Compared to my experiences in the U.S., I would have to say that Costa Rica provides as good, if not better service, than I have received in places like Houston or San Diego.

My first experience was in 2008 after only living here for a year. After blowing out a disc in my lower back while surfing in Playa Negra, I went through 3 months of therapy hoping it would heal it but appeared that it was not going to heal on its own and surgery was inevitable.

My first thought was to go back to the U.S. for the procedure but after getting a quote of around $40,000 (gulp!) I started to explore my options in San Jose. I began to interview the best neurologists in country at the highest regarded hospitals such as CIMA (a Baylor Institute), Clinica Biblica and Clinica Catolica. To say the least, the thought of having back surgery in a “third world” country was frightening and I had a lot of questions.

To my surprise the doctors I met all spoke English and most of them studied at some point in the US. After carting my MRI to all of these young, successful surgeons I was referred to an older doctor in an even older office, which he had been practicing out of for over 30 years.

From meeting with the other physicians, I figured the first thing he wanted to do was look at the MRI however he just put it aside and proceeded to do a thorough series of weird physical tests on me.

Even at one point using a tuning fork on the several parts of my skull. This guy was old school! He was able to give me a better diagnosis of the problem with his tests than the other doctors did with the modern technology. When I asked him how many procedures like mine he had done he told me 4,000. Good enough for me! We set the surgery for Clinica Catolica and I have to say the facility (after just going through a full renovation) is amazing. The hospital is spotless. The staff is well trained and meticulous especially when it comes to your comfort and care.

The minute I came out of surgery the profound sense of relief I felt was unbelievable. After hardly getting any sleep for months due to the pain, it was simply, gone… What did it cost you ask? A little over $3,000 (US). I made a full recovery and within 6 months was back in the water giving all the young guys a run for their money! When we found out my wife was pregnant, Clinica Catolica was where we decided to have him hatched.

My most recent experience with health care in Costa Rica was when I finally found a doctor who could diagnose my 15-year, chronic ear problem. Being a surfer for over 30 years, you are going to have some issues however mine were worse than most and I would also have horrible ear infections about 3 times a year.

Most doctors in the US would just give me a prescription for antibiotics and send me on my way. It would go away for a while but always come back. Finally realizing that this could be something serious, my wife found a highly regarded E.N.T. at Hospital CIMA.

By the way, the Spanish name for this type of doctor is otorrinolaringologia. Just try to say that ten times fast. He studied in the U.S. at a few schools in the U.S., one of them being Harvard which I understand is a pretty decent school.

Anyway, after examining me, he proceeded to tell me I might have an infection in my skull and had me get a C.A.T. scan (for $270) The C.A.T. scan showed that he was right. After having problems since 1998 I was finally able to find somebody who knew what was going on with my ear problem!

The surgery was done on September 3 of this year and I am in my final weeks of recovery. I had absolutely no complications and I am eagerly looking forward to getting back in the water soon. So if you ask me about the health care in this country and whether or not you should consider taking advantage of the low cost, high quality service you can receive in Costa Rica, you will receive a definite YES!