You may have heard about people traveling abroad in search of cheaper cosmetic procedures. In this post, Dr. Richard H. Lee discusses the risks involved in this “plastic surgery tourism” and why it is so dangerous.
What is Plastic Surgery Tourism?
Medical tourism, the practice of traveling to foreign countries to undergo medical procedures, is a booming business. Last year almost 750,000 Americans left the country seeking medical treatments abroad; many of them plastic surgery related. The reason for this is almost always financial. Medical treatment in other countries is often cheaper than in the U.S. However, the tradeoff involved regarding patient safety far outweighs the money saved.
Risks to Health
There are three main risks when undergoing surgery abroad. The first involves the surgeon. In many countries, specialties like cosmetic surgery are unregulated. Without a governing body similar to the American Board of Plastic Surgery, doctors may be under-trained in the procedures they are performing. Without guidelines similar to that of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, there is no way to verify that your doctor has the proper education needed to safely execute complicated cosmetic surgery. In addition, language barriers can prevent effective patient-doctor communication – a critical element of any cosmetic treatment.
The second risk involves the standards and practices of foreign hospitals. Improper handling of needles and medical/surgical equipment can lead to contamination, infection, and disease transmission. Medications may be counterfeit or expired. Local blood supplies may be tainted or infected with viruses such as HIV. In addition, antibiotic-resistant bacteria is more commonly found in certain parts of the world. Postoperative infections caused by this type of bacteria can have disastrous effects.
Third, post-surgical care is typically held to a lower standard than in the U.S. Some people try to avoid this by flying home immediately after surgery, greatly increasing their risk of blood clot formation. Also, if a patient has dreadfully bad results from a surgery, there may be no legal recourse at all. Other countries’ medical malpractice laws are different than in the U.S., and as a non-citizen, one may have no right to file a lawsuit or even file a complaint.
Contact the Office of Dr. Richard H. Lee
If you are curious about cosmetic surgery but are concerned about the cost, please contact our office at (949) 548-9312. Treatment may be more affordable than you believe, and safer than options abroad.