Our world has become an open marketplace as the internet, and lower airline prices have made international shopping an easy prospect. The problem with translating a global market to medicine and surgery is that no one should be searching for a fast and simple fix when it comes to their health. The decision to undergo plastic surgery 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 think about how well you get along with your surgeon, and whether it is worthwhile seeking a second opinion.
It’s important to remember that travelling for surgery may present obstacles to open communication with your surgeon. We 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 (such as breast implants and fillers) meet TGA/FDA equivalent approval, or if the hospital meets international standards of sterilisation and infection control.
A significant part of good surgery is also about good aftercare. 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. It is not uncommon for Australian GPs, emergency departments and surgeons to have patients present to them 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.
Finally, it is important to emphasise that patients undergoing longer procedures (more than 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. More extended 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 any country, it is wise to limit the risks within your surgery by having it performed in your own country.