International Plastic Surgery Tourism

Plastic Surgery Tourism: it evokes images of beautiful people in beautiful settings, basking and relaxing on a destination vacation where they also receive plastic surgery. And, it’s enticing: disappear on vacation for a week or two and return more toned, more sleek…more beautiful. And, frequently at a purportedly lower cost than having the surgery performed in the U.S.

But there is a dark underbelly to this idyllic “vacation.” A recent U.S. study by the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS), published in the August issue of Aesthetic Surgery Journal, found that complication rates for surgeries performed under these circumstances are alarming. The article, titled “Complications from International Surgery Tourism,” showed an increase in post-surgical complication rates in patients returning from surgery overseas.

“We see travel agencies brokering surgery for their clients with surgeons they have never met. The patients have no assurance that their surgeon is properly trained or qualified to perform the procedure they will undergo, and all too often little attention is paid to post-surgical care,” says Catherine Foss, Executive Director of the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS).

The US study supports the findings of a UK study presented three years ago by ISAPS member Professor James Frame (UK) during the Medical Tourism Association meeting in San Francisco. Dr. Frame reported a 20% complication rate in patients returning to the UK after surgery abroad. Many were serious enough to require hospital care.

There is a misconception that anyone with an MD can safely perform any surgical procedure, but not all MDs are even surgeons, let alone plastic surgeons. You should always ask if your cosmetic surgeon is board certified, trained to perform the specific procedure you are considering, and experienced in the procedure. And, make sure you perform due diligence to verify the answer you received. Members of medical boards typically have a profile at the Board’s website. For example, below is Dr. Ali’s profile at the American Society of Plastic Surgeons website.

Clearly this study shows a growing need to educate patients about surgical safety. Some complications have very poor or no resolution, and these results can never be corrected. No surgery should be taken lightly, and traveling abroad for plastic surgery can lead to poor outcomes, often with little or no recourse for additional treatment.

For more information, see Patients Have a Right to Safe Surgery.

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