Plastic Surgery and Surgical Tourism


The concept of “Surgical Tourism” evokes thoughts of beautiful people in beautiful settings, basking and relaxing on a destination vacation that also includes plastic surgery. And, it’s tempting…go away on vacation for a week or two and come home more toned, more sleek…more beautiful. And, these trips are often marketed as “lower cost” than having the surgery performed in the U.S.

But there is a dark side to this ideal. A study by the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS), recently published in the August issue of Aesthetic Surgery Journal, found that complication rates for surgeries performed in other countries are alarming. The article, titled “Complications from International Surgery Tourism,” showed an increase in post-surgical problems in patients returning from international surgery.

“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 previous study conducted in the UK and presented three years ago during the Medical Tourism Association meeting in San Francisco. The study, conducted by ISAPS member Professor Frame, reported a 20% complication rate in patients returning to the UK after surgery abroad. Many of the complications were serious enough to require hospital care.

There is a misconception that anyone with an MD can safely perform any surgery, but this is far from the case. Surgeons are board certified, highly trained and experienced with specific procedures. Make sure you perform due diligence to verify the qualifications of any surgeon you are considering. Members of medical boards typically have a profile at the Board’s website. For example, below is Dr. Aguiar’s profile at the American Society of Plastic Surgeons website.

Clearly this study indicates a need to educate patients about surgical safety. Some complications have very poor or no resolution, with results that can never be corrected. No surgery should be taken lightly, and traveling abroad for 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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