Approach: Combining Cosmetic Surgery, Tourism & Vacation
there are outstanding plastic surgeons in countries
around the world, it is
extremely difficult for a patient to verify a surgeon's
institution's accreditation from afar. Considering
all the pitfalls discussed below, we suggest
anyone considering traveling abroad be cautions.
Plastic Surgery or Cosmetic Surgery and Tourism
Cosmetic Surgery: Promises and Pitfalls™
cosmetic procedures in a vacation paradise are advertised
to include entire vacation and surgical packages
costing less than individual procedures in the U.S.
- Bargain surgery can be costly, whether
it is done in this country or any other. Consider the
potential complications that require treatment when
you return home, possible revisional surgery for an
unsatisfactory result, and most importantly, risk to
your general health due to less than satisfactory techniques
and conditions. Find out before surgery your financial
responsibility for the cost of treating complications.
- Vacation environment and activities sound
enticing, but vacation related activities may compromise
a patient’s safety. Cosmetic surgery trips
are marketed as a vacation, but after surgery activities
should be limited. Such activities as sunbathing,
alcohol consumption, exercise, sightseeing, etc.
should be avoided.
- Surgeon and facility qualifications should
be meaningful and verifiable. Vacation destinations
may or may not have formal medical accreditation
boards that certify physicians and medical facilities.
There are no US laws that protect patients or mandate
training and qualifications of physicians who perform
cosmetic surgery outside of the United States. Additionally,
there may be no legal recourse if surgical negligence
by the physician or institution occurs.
- Tourist screening process often lacks professional
involvement. Every individual seeking cosmetic
surgery may not meet the medical criteria for surgery.
Medical or emotional problems should be evaluated
and if necessary, additionally worked-up, but might
even preclude the surgery. In the case of medical
tourism, it is often the travel agent that screens
applicants for surgery, which is unethical and even
- Cosmetic surgery is real surgery. Though
cosmetic procedures are elective, they require anesthesia,
sterile technique, and modern instrumentation and equipment.
Further, any surgery involves risk. Infection is
the most common complication seen in patients that
go abroad for surgery, but other problems are unsightly
scars, hematomas and unsatisfactory results.
- Follow-up care and monitoring is an important
part of any surgery. Time and cost limit
the length of any cosmetic tourism, providing limited
follow-up care. Once the patient returns to the US,
it may be difficult to find a surgeon willing to
assume even routine follow-up of another unknown
surgeon’s patient. Treatment of complications
may be delayed in a patient’s search for a
qualified surgeon willing to deal with another’s
- Devices, products and technique may not meet
US standards. For example an implant used
in this country must meet standards of safety and
effectiveness, which is regulated by the FDA. Other
countries may or may not have similar regulation.
- Travel combined with surgery can significantly
increase risk of complications. Both long
flights and surgery, individually, increase the potential
for a pulmonary embolis, which is a blood clot that
travels to the lungs. Combined travel and surgery
further increase the risk of this potentially fatal
This article contains some information obtained
from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
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