American Society of Plastic Surgeons
For Medical Professionals

Why plastic surgery tourism isn't necessarily a good deal

plastic surgery tourism

Plastic surgery no longer holds the same stigma it once did, which means that there has been a huge surge in demand in recent years. As plastic surgery has become more common and accepted, patients have begun to shop internationally for deals and discounts. This has sparked an entirely new category of travel dubbed "plastic surgery tourism."

The cost of cosmetic plastic surgery procedures can vary wildly from one country to the next, and some patients are choosing to take a "plastic surgery vacation" in order to travel abroad for cheaper deals.

Unfortunately, there are quite a few risks associated with medical tourism. In fact, there are many cases where complications cause a procedure to cost more over the long term than it would have if the person had elected to have the surgery in the United States.

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons has many international members, and there are certainly many qualified plastic surgeons in other countries. Just be weary of any deal that seems too good to be true. You should always research your plastic surgeon, whether you’re procedure is happening at home or abroad.

The hidden costs of medical tourism

1. Complications and revisions

Plastic surgery is still a "real" and invasive surgery, and this means that there is a risk of complications arising. This is why board-certified plastic surgeons in the U.S. give patients strict guidelines and require periodic check-ins during the recovery process. Out-of-town patients may not have the luxury of returning for follow-up care.

If sudden complications arise once a patient has returned home, his or her doctor may not be able to obtain a complete record of what was done abroad. This can pose challenges for patients and doctors alike in managing proper care.

In some cases, plastic surgery tourists end up paying more because of revisions and complications than they would have if they had stayed in-country.

2. Travel safety

Many of the most popular plastic surgery destinations require long flights and significant amounts of travel. While this is fine before surgery, it's important to note that the risk of developing blood clots, infections and other serious complications can be significantly higher when you put yourself through the stress of long-distance travel immediately after surgery.

3. Postoperative recovery

Before opting to take a plastic surgery vacation, you should seriously consider how you will manage post-operative recovery. It can take many weeks for your body to fully heal, and you will require ongoing professional care.

It is possible to coordinate this follow-up care with your doctor at home, but it may be difficult and there are advantages to continuity of care.

4. Quality of care

It is possible to receive excellent medical treatment outside of the U.S., but anyone considering traveling abroad should understand that every country has different standards of care and varying levels of best practices.

There are international accreditations that can be obtained, but it's important to research any potential surgeon and facility as thoroughly as possible, especially since not every country has rigorous standards for medical procedures.

5. No legal protections

One final consideration is the fact that out-of-town patients generally have no legal recourse if major complications arise or negligence is suspected. In the U.S., there are malpractice laws and stringent rules in place to help keep patients safe, but these laws often hold no bearing outside of the country.

This means that patients can be held financially responsible for any and all medical bills, even if obvious negligence has occurred. In many cases, insurance companies may cover very little if any of these emergency costs if they consider cosmetic plastic surgeries elective procedures.

Plan your plastic surgery vacation at home

For many patients, it can be safer and more affordable in the long run to shop around within the United States. Plastic surgery costs can be significantly different based on geography, so it's always a good idea to do your due diligence when weighing your options for a cosmetic procedure.

Because plastic surgery can be a major, invasive procedure, it should be approached with the utmost care. Safety should always be your top priority. Choosing an accredited, board-certified plastic surgeon who has met stringent safety, educational and training standards and has a great track record can help patients feel confident they will get a sufficient level of care.

The right cosmetic procedure performed by a trusted and skilled surgeon can be an excellent way to boost your confidence and help you on a path towards becoming a more satisfied, confident version of yourself.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.


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