The lure of cosmetic surgery tourism can come at a much higher cost to your health than your hip pocket

Cosmetic tourism potential complications

Dr Amira Sanki, Australasian Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons Board Member and Plastic Surgeon at Silkwood Medical writes, our world has become an open marketplace as the internet and cheaper airline prices have made international shopping an easy prospect.  However, the problem with translating a global market to medicine and surgery is that price should not be the only determinate when it comes to your health.

The decision to undergo plastic surgery is a big one, and should only occur after a thorough discussion with your surgeon to discuss the benefits, risks and expectations of your particular procedure.  This information should be given to you with an appropriate cooling off period to allow you to consider all of your options.  This time also allows you to consider how well you get along with your surgeon, and whether it is worthwhile seeking a second opinion.

There are many pitfalls to travelling overseas for cosmetic surgery that won’t be advertised in the glossy sales brochure, and whilst a short break combined with a cheap nip and tuck might sound like a good deal, a lifetime of pain and suffering doesn’t.

People often take for granted the exceptionally high level of health care we have in Australia.  But when travelling abroad for surgery, it’s especially important to know what qualifications your doctor has before signing any agreements, and whether the medical devices to be used (e.g., breast implants, fillers, etc.) meet the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s (or that country’s equivalent) approval, or if the hospital meets international standards of sterilisation and infection control.

A significant part of good cosmetic surgery is also about good after care.  All patients have a myriad of questions at the post-operative consultations.  Your post-operative appointments provide an opportunity to answer your concerns and check your wound healing and find out how you are going after your surgery.

Australian GPs, emergency departments and surgeons are obliged to see patients who present with post-operative problems after surgery overseas.  It is often difficult to know how to manage these patients as we may not have access to the surgeon’s notes.  The costs saved upfront may be quickly diminished by the need to have revision surgery performed due to an inferior product or disappointing outcome at the hands of an overseas surgeon who was operating outside their scope of practice. You won’t always have the safety net of Medicare to fall back on.

Finally, it is important to emphasise that patients undergoing longer procedures (in excess of three hours) are particularly placed at risk when travelling internationally.  There may be a higher risk of deep vein thrombosis if you decide to combine surgery with long distance travel.  Longer procedures are also associated with higher risks for surgical and anaesthetic complications.  In the worst-case scenarios, admission to intensive care, blood transfusions and prolonged antibiotics may be required.

While complications can happen in any hospital and in any country, it is wise to limit the risks within your surgery by having it performed in your own country as the initial cost savings to your hip pocket may end up costing you and your health much more in the longer run.


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