With the increasing social emphasis on looks, a dangerous trend is emerging. It’s called “cosmetic surgery tourism.” It refers to those who seek inexpensive plastic surgical procedures in other nations – supposedly for less than someone would pay in the U.S. or Canada.

Fifteen million patients from the U.S. seek some kind of medical treatment every year in another nation. What are the risks of cosmetic surgery tourism? Is it really less expensive than plastic surgery in the U.S. or Canada? Can a Boston breast surgeon help?

WHAT CAN BE THE RESULT OF PLASTIC SURGERY TOURISM?

A number of cosmetic surgical clinics outside of the United States and Canada seek clients by offering prices far below what you would pay for procedures in locations like Boston or Montreal. Some clinics offer a package deal that lets you stay at a beautiful coastal resort.

The tropical paradise scenario and super-cheap surgical costs are certainly tempting, but for many patients, a plastic surgical procedure in these circumstances will cost far more in the long run than a standard procedure in the U.S. or Canada.

hospital room

And those are the patients who are lucky. Cheap cosmetic surgery in foreign countries far too frequently results in serious medical conditions and sometimes in life-threatening situations.

Plastic surgeons in the U.S. and Canada routinely see patients with complications from cosmetic surgery in other nations. E. coli infections are common. These patients are frequently provided with no follow-up instructions, and no appropriate follow-up care was even offered.

WHAT IS THE REAL COST OF COSMETIC SURGERY TOURISM?

There are plenty of exceptional plastic surgeons outside of the United States and Canada. The real problem is simply the lack of a standardized level of care – or the lack of enforcement – in many other nations.

There has been little research regarding the outcomes and follow-ups of cosmetic procedures in other nations. However, a study published in the journal Plastic and Surgery Reconstructive Surgery (July 2017) provides some disturbing conclusions.

The researchers followed 42 patients who underwent cosmetic surgery abroad. The average cost of treating the complications that arose in this group of patients was more than $18,000 per patient. In 2012, the cost to the U.S. healthcare system for medical tourism was over $1.3 billion.

IS OVERSEAS COSMETIC SURGERY MARKETED TO MISLEAD CONSUMERS?

One of the ways that overseas cosmetic facilities mislead patients from the U.S. and Canada is by implying that a procedure performed in another nation will cost substantially less – let’s say $15,000 rather than $25,000.

breast implants procedure

What the marketing for overseas cosmetic facilities does not tell you is that the $25,000 cost for a procedure in the U.S. or Canada includes recovery and post-surgical care – something not provided by overseas cosmetic surgeons who presume that they will never see the patient again.

Additionally, when cosmetic procedures are performed in the U.S. and Canada, many surgeons will include “cosmetic” health insurance for about $150 in the extraordinary event that there is a serious complication that requires hospitalization.

This insurance benefits patients because most health insurance policies will not cover elective cosmetic procedures, but it is insurance that is not usually offered by foreign cosmetic surgical facilities.

COULD PLASTIC SURGERY TOURISM POSE A RISK TO YOUR HEALTH?

However, when you seek cosmetic surgery outside of the U.S. or Canada, you are placing more than some dollars at risk. You may be genuinely risking your health with post-surgical complications like blood clots, bacterial infections, and other long-term health problems.

Safety standards at some overseas facilities are inadequate or nonexistent. In another nation, you might also be exposed to a bacterial infection that is difficult to resist and treat because you have never been exposed to it previously and your system has not developed the needed antibodies.

Plastic surgeons in the U.S. and Canada who provide follow-up treatment to cosmetic medical tourists often cannot even determine precisely what surgery was purportedly conducted or where. Patients often can’t remember the name of the surgeon or the name of the facility.

If you travel by air immediately after cosmetic surgery, the sedentary nature of air travel can also lead to complications – particularly blood clots.

CONSIDERING PLASTIC SURGERY? WHAT’S YOUR BEST FIRST STEP?

Instead of risking your health in a foreign country, schedule a consultation with an experienced Boston plastic surgeon who will explain the costs of a cosmetic surgical procedure and the possible complications. Then, weigh your financial options.

surgeons performing procedure

Most prospective cosmetic surgery patients would actually be better off taking out a loan and paying some interest. You’ll remember that the study cited above found that the average cost of dealing with post-surgical complications after cosmetic surgery tourism surpasses $18,000.

WHAT ARE THE KEY POINTS TO REMEMBER ABOUT PLASTIC SURGERY?

If you are considering a cosmetic surgical procedure, listed here are the four most important points to remember:

  • Cosmetic surgery is a serious surgery that can entail real risks. Those risks will probably be increased if your plastic surgery is performed outside of the United States or Canada.
  • Vacation activities conceivably could compromise your recovery. Travel plus surgery is not a good idea either.
  • You may have no legal recourse if you are a victim of medical malpractice outside of the United States or Canada.
  • Discount cosmetic surgery will probably cost more – in the long run – than standard surgery at a Canadian or U.S. facility.

boston plastic surgeon asking questions

Even in Canada and the U.S., every prospective cosmetic surgery patient needs to ask questions at the first meeting with a plastic surgeon. Make certain, for instance, that your cosmetic surgeon has been certified by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery (ABCS).

HOW CAN YOU LEARN MORE?

Health insurance seldom pays for cosmetic procedures, so you may be paying for the surgery directly and personally, but don’t let that be an obstacle. Most cosmetic surgeons offer several types of payment plans.

Cosmetic procedures are not one-visit surgeries. You’ll need ongoing care, monitoring, and advice. After a first consultation and a preliminary medical exam, a cosmetic surgeon should be able to provide you with an accurate, itemized written estimate of the costs you can expect.

Before you make any plans for a cosmetic surgery vacation, meet with a board-certified Boston plastic surgeon. You can schedule a consultation – and learn more about your options for a more youthful, more dynamic appearance – right now.