Plastic Surgery Vacations
A typical plastic surgery/travel website offers, “Stay in the heart of Chiang Mai and explore the art and culture of the 700-year-old city while you recuperate after plastic surgery.” A Philippines destination website sweetens the pot with, “Enjoy a round of golf after your plastic surgery,” also including roundtrip airfare, hotel accommodations, free day trips and spa treatments.
You may ask yourself, “What is the likelihood of my teeing off the day after my plastic surgery or boarding a tour bus at 8 AM to enjoy some ruins?” If you’re a cockeyed optimist, you may think “maybe,” but most of us know that chances are slim to none. Nonetheless, medical tourism, which is the term for traveling abroad for surgery, is a rapidly expanding global phenomenon, particularly for cosmetic surgery.
The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) notes that despite this growing trend, there is “little data on outcomes, follow-up or complication rates.” To fill this void, researchers from Nassau University Medical Center in New York surveyed U.S. plastic surgeons about medical tourism complication rates. Study results, published in Aesthetic Surgery Journal, August 2011, found that plastic surgeons are seeing an increasing number of patients who return from surgery abroad with complications. These patients are lured by lower-priced surgery or availability of procedures that are not approved in the U.S. When they come home, it is a costly scenario if they develop complications and are not covered by medical insurance.
Study participants mostly underwent breast augmentation or body contouring. More than half required multiple operations when they sought treatment for complications and at least one patient required over a month of hospitalization in a surgical intensive care unit. The largest percentage (31 percent) of complications occurred as a result of infection. Other common complications were splitting of a surgical wound, contour abnormality or localized swelling filled with blood.
American women who traveled to Europe for breast implant surgery have special worries. In January, 2010, controversy broke out over Poly Implant Prothese (PIP), a French breast implant manufacturer charged with substituting a cheap industrial-grade silicone, believed to be used for mattresses, for the medical-grade silicone that is standard. PIP was shut down when French authorities claimed that PIP implants were rupturing at a rate double the industry average. For more information on PIP implants, please visit our previous blog on PIP implants.
Since none of these implants have been sold in the United States, PIP implants are a concern only for American women who had implant surgery in another country. This controversy highlights the importance of knowing exactly what is inserted into your body. In the United States, we rely on the FDA. Be sure to check with your doctor if the product has been FDA-approved for the purpose it’s being used for, how long the product has been on the market and what its history of related complications is.
Think twice before you travel for plastic surgery
In terms of worries about plastic surgery abroad, PIP implants are just the tip of the iceberg. According to ASAPS, “Cosmetic surgery combined with travel to exotic places might sound like a great idea, but both travel and surgery come with their own risks, and putting them together increases the possibilities of adverse effects.” Here is why you should think twice about traveling for your cosmetic surgery:
•Follow-up care may be unavailable. Problems, most often minor, which require surgical revisions or other treatment, are always a possibility, so it is important that your surgeon is accessible. Most doctors are reluctant to handle problems, even minor ones, of surgeries they did not perform, particularly if they are unsure what techniques were used initially.
•Both air travel and major surgery increase your risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or a pulmonary embolism. Flying soon, before or after your operation abroad, combines and compounds these risks, particularly if your overseas flight is long.
•Forget golf, swimming and snorkeling. Most cosmetic surgeries require restrictions on normal activities, particularly exercise, for several days to weeks.
•Sun bathing is a “no-no.” If you plan to recover by the pool, think again. Many cosmetic surgeries require that you stay out of the sun until you’re healed.
Further, it’s not easy to evaluate your doctor’s credentials abroad, the surgical facility may not be safe, you may not be comfortable with a doctor you haven’t met, it’s hard to evaluate the standards for anesthesia and nursing care and key personnel may not be English speaking.
Do the math
Carefully consider the total costs involved with having surgery abroad, including the additional time off work required for travel and recovery, the costs of air travel and extended stays abroad, potential costs if surgery revisions are needed and unanticipated expenses if complications occur. Cosmetic surgery abroad can be a safe experience with excellent outcomes. However we strongly recommend that you do your homework in advance and be fully comfortable with all the issues before making a commitment of time or money.
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For more information on Dr. Jon Paul Trevisani, please call our office today at (407) 901- 4934 to schedule your complimentary consultation or complete our contact form online. The Aesthetic Surgery Centre is located at 413 Lake Howell Road Maitland, FL 32751, and can be found online at jptrev.com or our Facebook Page. You may also visit our exclusive website dedicated to only breast surgery at usabreast.com.