It sounds exotic – travel overseas to have a vacation and plastic surgery at the same time. But is this a good idea? Sure there are excellent plastic surgeons, who specialize in aesthetic procedures outside the United States and Canada. In many cases, the cost of a procedure abroad is lower than that done locally.  But keep these thoughts in mind if you are considering entering the world of “medical tourism”.

If you are seeking surgical cosmetic enhancements you need to do your homework so that you can make an informed decision before having any procedure. The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) recommends the following questions that you should have answered before leaving for plastic surgery abroad.

  • Unless you have met the surgeon on a prior visit, and have seen the surgery facility, how do you know that you will be comfortable with him or her, and feel secure in proceeding with surgery? Remember, a successful; doctor-patient relationship is based on confidence and trust, not on perceived savings and price. Make sure you are fully comfortable with the surgeon providing your care.
  • What are the risks of long flights and any additional land travel before and after surgery? Will travel have an impact on my surgical outcome?
  • Will I have to stay longer at the tourist destination to decrease the risk of post-surgical deep vein thrombosis (DVT) before I get on a plane? Is there an increased risk of DVT in the legs, or pulmonary embolism (blood clots in the lungs) associated with long air travel before and after surgery?
  • What is the surgeon’s training? Be sure that your physician has specific training in cosmetic surgery procedures through an accredited plastic surgery residency program and/or fellowship.
  • What specialty certification does the surgeon hold? The International Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery ( www.isaps.org ) is a good source for finding qualified cosmetic surgeons.
  • What happens if you develop complications? Make sure you know who will care for you and who is financially responsible for secondary or revisional procedures. Before you leave home check with a local Board Certified Plastic Surgeon to see if they will be willing to provide post-op or revisional care if necessary.
  • If you feel the surgeon has been negligent, what recourse will you have? Find out in advance what liability coverage the physician holds and what are the local laws regarding medical malpractice.
  • What are the local standards of anesthesia and nursing care? What credentials do these providers hold and what are the standards of the credentials? Is there an acute care hospital nearby if complications should arise? Is it a fully licensed, modern facility?
  • What physician will care for you at home if complications arise? What are the surgeon’s recommendations for aftercare? How long after your procedure will you need to stay in the area? Who will care for you in your initial recovery? What are the costs for this post-operative care?
  • Do the key personnel at the surgeon’s office and in the operating room speak fluent English?

So before you consider a procedure or surgery away from home, think about these issues and how they would affect your plastic surgery experience.

“In my personal experience, seeking out plastic surgery overseas based on cost alone, has not been a good idea. The patients I’ve seen who did it were very unsatisfied with the process and results. Not only is the travel difficult after surgery, and it is hard to enjoy a “vacation” while recovering, the follow-up care is non-existent. I’ve offered care for some patients who sought me out after encountering problems once they returned home. A common story I hear is that they felt pressured to have surgery, sometimes more than they wanted, once they arrived at their destination and that afterwards, they received little or no follow-up care. The ASAPS recommendations listed above are worth thinking about for anyone considering surgery abroad.”

Karol A. Gutowski, M.D.