Plastic surgery tourism has become increasingly popular in recent years. Because data for this practice is not consistently recorded, there are no concrete figures for how many Americans have traveled outside the U.S. for plastic surgery procedures. However, estimates show that the number could be close to half a million patients seeking treatment in places like Costa Rica, Mexico, South Korea, and Thailand. The trend towards medical tourism shows no sign of slowing down, prompting concerns about this practice.
The primary reason patients give for seeking plastic surgery abroad is price. The cost of procedures in other countries is typically much lower, making this a more affordable option for many Americans. As attractive as this may be, there are a number of risks associated with traveling outside the U.S. for plastic surgery. At Plastic Surgery Group of Memphis, we believe that plastic surgery procedures are best performed by qualified and experienced plastic surgeons. The warning “you get what you pay for” is worth taking into account if you’ve considered bargain shopping for plastic surgery! To help raise awareness about the dangers of plastic surgery tourism, we’ve listed a number of potential risks below. Keep reading for more information!
Cost does not equal expertise
Plastic surgery tourism is a phenomenon that is predominantly driven by price. Many companies have taken advantage of this by creating all-inclusive vacation packages that include cosmetic surgery. These companies operate in many countries and can easily be located by a simple internet search. Their offers often include “private hospital services” and boast of “highly trained” or “credentialed” medical staff.
For cosmetic surgery to be performed safely, it requires the proper administration of anesthesia, the use of sterile technique, modern instruments and equipment, as well as properly trained surgeons and medical staff. Although there are many skilled and qualified surgeons practicing all over the world, it may be difficult to assess their training and credentials if they are outside the U.S. The qualifications for surgeons and facilities may not be readily verifiable, and certain destinations do not have formal medical accreditation boards to certify surgeons or medical facilities.
Many of the facilities used by surgical tourism companies are also privately owned and operated, making it difficult to authenticate the credentials of surgeons, anesthesiologists, and other medical personnel. As there are no U.S. laws that protect patients or mandate the training and qualifications of physicians who perform plastic surgery outside of the United States, patients may have no legal recourse if negligence by a physician or institution occurs.
Furthermore, cosmetic surgery products or devices used in other countries may not have been tested and approved by a regulatory agency such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). For example, implants used in the United States must meet certain standards of safety and effectiveness, and this process is strictly regulated by the FDA. Other countries are not guaranteed to have the same regulations.
Plastic surgery is still surgery
Any surgery comes with risks, and these risks may increase when procedures are performed during a cosmetic surgery “vacation.” While infections are the most common complication seen in patients who have gone abroad for cosmetic surgery, other complications can include unsightly scarring, hematomas, and unsatisfactory results.
Because these cosmetic surgery trips are often marketed as vacation, patients may be tempted to participate in vacation activities such as sunbathing, visiting the bar, swimming, snorkeling, walking or bus tours, or even just regular exercise. However, all of these should be avoided in order to heal properly following surgery. Failure to do so may compromise a patient’s healing and health.
Combining surgery with travel also significantly increases the risk of developing complications. Long flights and surgery both increase the risk of developing deep venous thrombosis, or blood clots in the leg veins, as well as pulmonary embolism. Traveling shortly after surgical procedures can further increase the risk of developing these potentially fatal complications, and may also contribute to swelling or infection.
Follow-up care can be limited
Postoperative monitoring and follow-up care plays an important role in any surgical procedure, but may be limited if a patient has sought treatment abroad. Most packages provide little, if any, follow-up care once the patient returns home. If any complications arise, they may find themselves at a disadvantage if further treatment or revisions are required, as any subsequent physician will not have firsthand knowledge of the surgical techniques used by the original surgeon. This can make treatment more difficult, and patients will likely incur additional costs.
You’re in safe hands with the Plastic Surgery Group of Memphis
You accept some degree of risk with any surgical procedure. But when you stay close to home, it’s easier for you to verify the qualifications and experience of plastic surgeons and their team, as well as the safety of their facility. Having the opportunity to review this information before choosing them for your surgery minimizes your risk and offers a better experience overall.
When you travel abroad for cosmetic surgery, you lose much of this built-in safety net. Chances are you will not have the opportunity to visit the surgeon or view the operating facility ahead of time. You may be unfamiliar with the country’s healthcare, legal systems, language, and customs. And of course, you are far away from the comfort of home as you recover from your procedure.
At Plastic Surgery Group of Memphis, our doctors are certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery, or they are board-eligible. This means each surgeon has had at least 5-6 years of training devoted exclusively to plastic surgery, if not more. These members of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons must also accrue 50 hours of continuing medical education every year.
We have nine surgeons on staff, so there is a doctor for every patient’s needs. When you choose our practice, you’re guaranteed personalized care and individual attention. Every procedure is customized to fit your body, lifestyle, and vision! With decades of experience in cosmetic surgery and a commitment to exceptional service to patients across the Mid-South, there’s no need to travel beyond your own back door for the best plastic surgery experience. Get in touch with us today to schedule a consultation!