Often, vacationers end up jet-setting set to foreign countries over the holidays and are packing their appointment card to see their plastic surgeon along in their luggage. Whether it be for a Brazilian butt lift, breast augmentation, or nose job, the number of people seeking cosmetic surgery abroad continues to rise each year. In 2016 alone, more than $1.4 million people left the United States to have a medical procedure performed overseas, and this number is expected to grow rapidly over the next decade. Why? People are often tempted by the lower cost of surgery abroad and the cheap flights and accommodations for getting there.
Unfortunately for those hoping to save a little money, the results of surgery abroad aren't always what they had expected. Model and actress Sonia found this out first-hand. The 35-year old told The Guardian that her overseas cosmetic surgery experience was not a good one. She was excited to find the cost of a nose job much less in Pakistan. Sonia had the procedure performed in Pakistan by a very well-known surgeon. Rather than receiving the 1:1 consultation and care that she expected, Sonia was rushed to the operating room, along with a lot of other patients, to make way for the more patients. Sonia's nose job did not turn out how she wanted. She complained to the doctor, whose only advice was that she come back for another procedure—and shell out more money. Any money she thought she saved from traveling overseas for cosmetic surgery would be gone.
Sonia’s experience is not out of the ordinary. The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons says that the number of patients reporting complications after plastic surgery abroad continues to rise. One leading surgeon warns that many people are left with lifelong deformities from botched plastic surgeries in foreign countries. Professor Ash Mosahebi, a plastic surgeon at the Royal Hospital in London, says that some patients come home with injuries typically seen in accident and fire victims. Professor Mosahebi says that one out of every ten women that have breast augmentation abroad loses at least one nipple.
Other patients contract sepsis, which is a life-threatening infection that enters the bloodstream. Over the past couple of years, there were more than a dozen women that came down with severe infections from having surgery in places like The Dominican Republic and Colombia.
A South Florida woman recently told NBC Miami about how she got a bacterial infection after having surgery overseas. She was a breast cancer survivor who went to Colombia for breast reconstruction surgery. Immediately after surgery, the woman had pain that would not go away. She had contracted a dangerous blood infection from the procedure. It eventually caused her left breast to burst open. She was hospitalized for more than one month and now lives with scars and constant pain. She warns others that going abroad for surgery is not worth it. If she were closer to her doctor during the recovery process, some of these complications could have potentially been treated earlier.
It is essential to be aware of the following things if you are considering traveling abroad for cosmetic surgery.
Verifying Accreditation is Difficult
Unlike the United States, many countries do not have formal medical accreditation boards to certify medical facilities and physicians. Even if they do, the standards for accreditation may not be the same as in the U.S. It is difficult for patients to determine the process of certification in each country.
Our advice is to look for a surgeon who is accredited by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. This board maintains very rigorous standards when it comes to continuing medical education, training, certification and hospital privileges, and is the only board recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties. A surgeon that is a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgery or the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons is well-trained in cosmetic and reconstructive surgery.
Chance of Risks is Much Greater
Every surgery, no matter how minor, has risks. Even with the best care, there is a risk of complications. It is essential to have close monitoring and follow-up after surgery to reduce the risk of serious problems and to receive early treatment if any arise.
When you have surgery abroad, you may face more significant risks than at home for several reasons. The chance of developing a blood clot or deep venous thrombosis is higher if you fly right after your procedure. Also, most people require a lengthy period to recuperate from surgery. This can be hard to do if you are traveling. Not getting the proper rest after surgery may delay healing.
You May Not Be Legally Protected
In the United States, you can sue a doctor if something goes wrong. However, that is not the case in every country. Helena Grace had a nose job at one of the top hospitals in Bangkok. The procedure was botched, and she had trouble breathing through her nose afterward. A United States surgeon told Grace that she would need another expensive surgery to fix her nose. The Bangkok hospital refused to offer her compensation. She has spent the last four years fighting for a settlement in a civil court and attended more than 50 hearings. The judge again denied her complaint during the most recent trial, according to BBC News.
Do not cut corners when it comes to your health. Make sure that the clinic and surgeons that you choose are highly trained and experienced. By carefully researching the qualifications of your surgeon and your legal rights as a patient, you can have a safe surgery with excellent results.