Aesthetic Tourism: Undergoing Plastic Surgery Overseas
In recent years the plastic surgery industry has been undergoing a face lift (excuse the pun). Rather than new industry regulations or medical breakthroughs causing this change it is now coming from below – from the consumers themselves. The cosmetic surgery industry has always influenced by supply and demand, however this new trend signals a type of demand that up until now has been largely overlooked. Instead of going under the cosmetic surgeon’s knife locally, some patients are now taking their breast implants, tummy tucks and nose jobs out of their own countries and travelling overseas to have these large and sometimes potentially dangerous operations performed.
Plastic surgery holidays have become big business. I mean what’s not to love? You can get a new set of breasts and a lovely tan at the same time if you opt to have your procedure done in Thailand or Costa Rica. As most plastic surgeries are classified as ‘elective procedures’, that is they are not done to improve health or save lives, they are not covered by national medical programs such as Medicare or NHS, nor are the costs usually covered by health insurance companies. Thus to save money on these expensive procedures, patients are now looking beyond their own borders to have these operations done. For English speaking countries such as the USA, UK and Australia/New Zealand this has become increasingly prevalent. The most popular cosmetic surgery holiday locations being Mexico, Costa Rica and Brazil (for North Americans), Thailand, Malaysia and the Phillipines (for Australians/New Zealanders), and Eastern Europe and North Africa (for the British).
Whilst the lowered costs of the procedure are certainly the main draw card, patients are also enticed by holiday packages that are on offer by agencies who deal specifically in this plastic surgery travel industry. A typical packaged offer includes your pick of operations – say breast augmentation and tummy tuck, for as little as half the price that you would pay in your home country – plus accommodation, tour itineraries, guides and pampering packages at spas and day resorts.
However what many patients are failing to realise is that these procedures undertaken in foreign countries are often highly risky, not only due to the fact that health and hygiene laws in these destinations are often poorly managed and enforced, but also because many of these procedures carry the risk of blood clothing and pulmonary embolisms which can be fatal. If you suffer complications from your procedure in your second/third-world medical destination then you may not receive the appropriate medical treatment, follow up costs may not be included in your package or if something goes wrong by the time you get home, you will have to shell out the money to have an infected or botched job looked after by surgeons in your home country.
There are also the horror stories that abound. A forty-two year old medical assistant from Virginia in the US recently traveled to Bolivia to have a breast augmentation, tummy tuck and liposuction performed – all without prior contact or research on her doctor. She came home with not only an infection, but also with a massive medical bill as she was required to have a blood transfusion and reconstructive work done. Somewhat closer to home, this year a twenty-four year old Gold Coast woman was hospitalized after a foreign breast augmentation went horribly wrong in Thailand. Local doctors have labeled it the worst case of overseas plastic surgery they have ever seen, and the young woman was left without feeling, without nipples, permanent scarring and a whopping $30,000 reconstructive bill.
Although many women come back from their plastic surgery holidays happy with their results, there are many that don’t, which is why careful research and considerate forethought into booking one of these packages is a must. Don’t just trust your agent, after all they are there to make money. Make sure you know the name of your surgeon, have researched their certifications and spoken to them before your operation. Ask to look at their previous work and if possible, talk to their former patients. Know the clinic and research its accreditation. Be sure that intensive care units are just within the vicinity, just in case an emergency situation occurs. Also be sure that there are no communication barriers. If you don’t know the language, make sure that an interpreter is available.
Although none of these measures should have to be taken, if you or someone you know insists on having a cosmetic procedure done overseas they are at least worth considering. After all, the cosmetic surgery vacation industry sees no sign of letting up just yet.