Cosmetic surgery tourism

Every month I see patients for  cosmetic plastic surgery consultations who have already had surgery in another country. They want to see a plastic surgeon at “home” because something is wrong, because there is a complication or just to be reassured. I have always found it interesting to see what motivates cosmetic patients to go far away to have cosmetic surgery when we in the US live in a country where you can find a highly trained, competent, board-certified cosmetic plastic surgeon in every city.

Reasons for cosmetic surgery travel

There are many reasons why patients would rather travel abroad for cosmetic surgery. Some certainly include:
  • perceived lower cost
  • perceived superior techniques
  • social support system available
  • vacation added to surgery
  • privacy

Problems with plastic surgery tourism

The problem with cosmetic surgery tourism is that often the patients ends up with less than they bargained for; typically the patient will have:
  • equal cost when travel and lodging is accounted for
  • lesser techniques and less-qualified surgeons
  • lack of social support for long-term recovery
  • “vacation” spent recovering in a hotel room!

Cost of plastic surgery

The cost of plastic surgery falls into two groups for many patients. The first are patients who go outside the USA and end up paying the same amount for the surgery! Yes, some patients actually pay the same for less results.
There are some countries in which the rates are significantly less than in the US. Also, there will be less after care, less sterility, less training for the surgeon, lesser quality materials, etc. You get what you pay for in this global market!

Plastic surgery training

Cosmetic plastic surgeons in the US are among the most highly trained in the world. The average US board-certified plastic surgeon has been schooled and trained for around 17 years after high school before starting their own surgical practice. In contrast, few surgeons in South America, for example, have even completed an accredited surgical residency, let alone a plastic surgery fellowship—there are just no such programs in many countries!

Plastic surgery techniques

Any cosmetic plastic surgeon wants to have the lowest complication rate possible. If the surgeon knows that the patient will be traveling back home, they will—on purpose—change their techniques to provide a “safer” (= less risk of complication) surgery. Unfortunately for the patient, this also means scars in visible areas and, in general, a second-rate cosmetic surgery result.

Social support for cosmetic surgery

Any patient having plastic surgery will need to have someone to care for them for a little while after surgery. In some cases the support system will be a spouse or partner, a friend or the cosmetic surgeon and his or her staff. Most cosmetic surgeries take months for healing. The cosmetic surgery tourist is getting a week or two of support at most and then being left alone to seek and pay extra for weekly visits to a US surgeon. Unless your family is going to take care of you in another country for an extended period of time, forget it! It will not be a vacation!
For cosmetic surgery, find a board-certified plastic surgeon near your home. You will get a better result, better surgical care and look better when you do finally go onto tourism after healing.

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