Turkey's doctors are pushing the boundaries of medical science with groundbreaking organ transplants. The country is also becoming an ever increasingly popular destination for cost-effective, high-quality cosmetic surgery.

Turkey's cosmetic and transplant sector is becoming renowned around the world after completing a number of groundbreaking and innovative operations. With its skilled surgeons and advanced technology, Turkey is beginning to lead the way when it comes to full-face transplants.

In April 2014, the Turkish medical system completed its seventh successful face transplant—more than any other country in the world. The surgery took place in Antalya's Akdeniz University Hospital, a place that has become distinguished as a global leader in the field of organ transplants. The first successful transplant from a donor in the world took place in France in 2005. It was a partial facial transplant for a woman who had been mauled by a dog. The first full-face transplant took place in Spain in 2010 and was carried out by 30 doctors. In January 2012, Turkey, led by Dr. Ömer Özkan's surgical team, successfully completed a transplant on a 19-year-old patient who had been badly burnt in a house fire as an infant. A month later, Dr. Serdar Nasır conducted the country's second transplant at Hacettepe University Hospital in Ankara. Dr. Özkan carried out one more procedure in 2012, and an additional three in 2013, as well as the most recent in April 2014.

Dr. Özkan is building a huge reputation not only for the country, but also for himself. In August 2011, Dr. Özkan, Dr. Munire Erman, and their team at the Akdeniz University Hospital, conducted the world's first uterus transplant. A 21-year-old Turkish woman named Derya Sert received a donated uterus from a deceased patient. The operation was deemed a complete success, with Ms. Sert going on to have a fully functioning uterus. Dr. Özkan was also in charge of the extremely complicated triple limb transplant of Atilla Kavdir, a 34-year old man who had lost his limbs as a child when an iron rod he was holding made contact with a power line. It was the first transplant to replace two arms and one leg from a single donor.


While Dr. Özkan and his team have been pushing the boundaries of medical science, Turkey is also becoming well known for its cosmetic surgeons. In 2012, Turkey made more than $1 billion from facial hair transplants. In the same year, Turkish hospitals performed 270,000 facial hair procedures, a significant rise on the year before, which saw 156,000 patients undergo transplants. With wildly popular Turkish soap operas being exported all over the world—especially in the MENA region—an increasing number of foreign patients are travelling to Turkey for the procedure, which is becoming a hub for hair and facial hair transplants. Some cosmetic surgeons have said up to 75% of the patients coming for hair and facial hair transplants are of Arab descent. These procedures are not cheap; with the average facial hair transplant costing around $5,000 and hair transplant around $2,300. While Turkish actors and music stars may be continuing the Turkish tradition of the mustache, the number of Turks sporting the lip toupée fell dramatically from 77% in 1993 to 34% in 2011.

Medical tourism is big business, and the government wants to increase Turkey's prominence in this sector even further. According to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS), Turkey ranks ninth in the world for the most surgical and non-surgical cosmetic procedures. The government has targeted a medical tourism goal of $5 billion by 2023, a goal that Mustafa Tuncer, CEO of Esteworld, sees as a very reachable target. “Turkey has an excellent reputation for quality services and results, and is also popular because of its European location and relatively low costs compared to other countries, such as the US or the UK," Tuncer explained in an interview with TBY.