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BACKGROUND: International travellers may seek care abroad to address health problems that arise during their trip or plan healthcare outside their country of residence as medical tourists. METHODS: Data were collected on travellers evaluated at GeoSentinel Network sites who reported healthcare during travel. Both unplanned and planned healthcare were analysed, including the reason and nature of healthcare sought, characteristics of the treatment provided, and outcomes. Travellers that presented for rabies post-exposure prophylaxis were described elsewhere and were excluded from detailed analysis. RESULTS: From May 2017 through June 2020, after excluding travellers obtaining rabies post-exposure prophylaxis (n = 415), 1093 travellers reported care for a medical or dental issue that was an unanticipated part of the travellers' planned itinerary (unplanned healthcare). Travellers who sought unplanned healthcare abroad had frequent diagnoses of acute diarrhoea, dengue, falciparum malaria, and unspecified viral syndrome, and obtained care in 131 countries. Thirty-four (3%) reported subsequent deterioration and 230 (21%) reported no change in condition; a third (n = 405; 37%) had a pre-travel health encounter. Forty-one travellers had sufficient data on planned healthcare abroad for analysis. The most common destinations were the US, France, Dominican Republic, Belgium, and Mexico. The top reasons for their planned healthcare abroad were unavailability of procedure at home (n = 9; 19%), expertise abroad (n = 9; 19%), lower cost (n = 8; 17%), and convenience (n = 7; 15%); a third (n = 13; 32%) reported cosmetic or surgical procedures. Early and late complications occurred in 14 (33%) and 4 (10%) travellers, respectively. Four travellers (10%) had a pre-travel health encounter. CONCLUSIONS: International travellers encounter health problems during travel that often could be prevented by pre-travel consultation. Travellers obtaining planned healthcare abroad can experience negative health consequences associated with treatments abroad, for which pre-travel consultations could provide advice and potentially help to prevent complications.

Original publication




Journal article


J Travel Med

Publication Date



illness, international, medical tourism, outcome, procedure, travellers, treatment