Each year, many people travel to Central and South America to undergo cosmetic procedures. Some patients return to their country of origin and some travel to new destinations to have these procedures performed. Their main motivation: to save money. Patients are lured in by glitzy websites and the promise of inexpensive surgery and an easy recovery. However, many times, what is presented is not what is delivered.
People who are thinking about going abroad for surgery should consider several important factors prior moving forward. The first and most important factor is safety during surgery. One of the reasons the cost of medical care is higher in the United States is because of the many safety measures required by state and federal authorities. These measures are designed to reduce the risk of anesthesia, post-operative infections, and life threatening cardiovascular events. These safety measures are not required in many other countries. Many surgeons choose not to adopt these measures voluntarily, since it adds costs to the procedure.
Traveling Adds Risks
Another problem involving traveling for surgery is that many people book their return trip within a few days of the surgery. In most cases, they are advised against flying for 2-5 weeks following major surgical procedures, mainly because of the increased risk of bleeding and blood clots. The heavy lifting associated with carrying bags is not recommended following most cosmetic surgical procedures, as this increases the risk of hematomas (or swelling caused by blood collecting outside a blood vessel). In addition, sitting for a prolonged period, for example during airline travel, increases the risk of deep vein thrombosis following surgery. Finally, most travelers are at risk for dehydration, which can add to the risks of blood clots. These blood clots can be fatal if they are not treated in a prompt manner.
The training programs for many surgeons in other countries are not as extensive as that in the U.S. As a result, the surgeon may not be as qualified as he/she is portrayed in their advertisements. In addition, it is difficult to evaluate the quality of a surgeon’s education in some of these countries.
What If Something Goes Wrong?
People who choose to go abroad for surgery need to understand that they do not have a way to recoup their costs for surgery and any pain and suffering due to the negligence of a surgeon. Most countries do not have the strict malpractice protections for patients that we do in the United States. In addition, there are usually fewer governmental controls on licensure of surgeons in other countries. In the U.S., physicians who are deemed to be impaired are stripped of their medical license by their state medical board. This is not the case in other countries.
Bottom line, the most important criteria when choosing to undergo elective surgery should be patient safety. It’s not worth risking one’s health for potential lower cost. In fact, many times the costs of cosmetic procedures are equivalent when the travel costs are added in to the surgical fees.
At Advanced Cosmetic and Plastic Surgery, our board-certified plastic surgeons offer neck and facelifts, breast augmentation, reduction or reconstruction, abdominoplasty (tummy tuck), eyelid surgery, rhinoplasty (nose surgery), liposuction, as well as Botox, Juvederm and other injectable fillers. ASC offices are located in the Fairfield County, CT towns of Danbury, New Milford, Norwalk, Ridgefield and Southbury.
- Sohel Islam, M.D.