Medical Tourism: Misery in Plastic Surgery and How You Can Avoid It

Medical tourism is one you as a patient go abroad and actually have surgery in another country. People find that going to foreign countries may save them a lot of money but the buyer should be careful. We found a new study in the Journal of plastic and reconstructive surgery. We looked at this question, what is the true cost of medical tourism? Let's find out.

These plastic surgery researchers from Boston hospitals looked at almost 80 patients who came in from complications or complaints after traveling to developing countries for cosmetic procedures. These people went to cities in the Caribbean, Latin America, Asia, and Europe seeking tummy tucks, breast augmentation, and cosmetic injectables. They came back with surgical site infections, acute pain, wound healing complications, and unclosing cosmetic results including hernias, granulomas, and in a few instances unwanted breast implants.

Almost 90% of these people relied on their medical health insurance including federal or state-funded Medicaid to pay for their subsequent treatment. For complications, the cost of these so-called savings for medical tourism is clear not only a growing threat to the public health system but it's a clear risk to you and to the safety of your health.

A study conducted by the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Journal

There are board-certified Plastic Surgeons all around the world who provide patients with safe care and great results. However, undergoing a cosmetic procedure in a foreign country can potentially lead to significant problems and complications. Exposure to unfamiliar bacteria can cause infections that may be difficult for physicians back home to treat. This new plastic surgery hot topic and PRS included 37 such patients that suffered from soft tissue infections after traveling abroad for cosmetic surgery. The patients were split into two groups based upon how their infections were managed initially. The first group was treated conservatively and the second group whose infections were classified as more severe underwent surgery immediately.

The authors then compared readmission rates and overall costs between the two groups. Initial treatment failed in sixty-seven percent of these patients in the conservative group. In fact, 54 percent of the entire group ended up having surgery in evitable II. This group spent more time in the hospital and experienced higher costs despite having worse infections. Patients who underwent surgery initially were almost five times less likely to be readmitted to the hospital. On average they were treated in less time and saved over $10,000 in emergency room costs.

It's really up to plastic surgeons to assure the safe and efficient management of such problems associated with medical tourism. The authors of this study propose that early surgical treatment of infections may significantly improve these outcomes in the long run. However, medical tourism even though it may be more cost-effective initially may cost patients much more money, much more misery, and more importantly, maybe detrimental to their health.


Given below is the result of the study conducted by the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Journal from May 2013 to May 2017.
Fifty-three patients (one man and 52 women) presented with complications after procedures performed abroad, of which 37 were soft-tissue infections. Twenty-four patients with soft-tissue infections at initial presentation were managed conservatively, and 13 patients were treated surgically. The two groups were similar in patient demographics and the type of procedure performed abroad. Patients who were managed conservatively at the initial presentation had a higher rate of readmission despite having lower severity of infections. A significantly lower total cost of treatment was shown with early surgical management of these complications.

A woman's failed surgery

Let's hear out a woman whose multiple surgeries left her scarred emotionally, and physically.
After several years of bouts of diverticulitis, everything just spiraled out of control. I was cut from below the ribcage, down below the belly button. The day after surgery, my abdomen was becoming larger and extended. And the nurse told me, "You have a hernia, you need to go back into surgery." I was in the emergency room several times, only to end up with another infection and another surgery. I was left with a road map on my stomach. One side hangs lower than the other. I have a cone in the middle. It just disgusts me. I don't even wanna look in a mirror. I'm 52, and I have to dress like I'm 80. I wanna get back to feeling like a woman. It basically ruined me.
Her case is not typical. She had a lot of bad luck. It's left her with all these scars and deformities. Her failed surgeries made it a difficult case. (Thankfully, a team of doctors was ready to take her case.)

(About her new surgery)

I'm ready to do this. It's gonna be awesome. I'm extremely nervous about this, because of my past. I am nervous about what could happen, but I'm going to just have faith. Doctors are gonna work together. They are gonna do some liposuction and reduce her size and give her some shape and then the doctor will be doing what's called a fleur-de-lis abdominoplasty which is basically a tummy tuck. The procedure requires pulling down in this direction and also pulling in the opposite direction to really give her that waist. Doctors will contour her whole body and removing some upper back fat, and lower back. They will use a probe that delivers ultrasonic, or heat energy, under the skin to remove the fat, and then the steam heat tightens the skin.

We all know there are fantastic Plastic Surgeons all around the world. However, always do your homework and it's harder to do your homework when trying to find a great plastic surgeon or a great facility abroad. A quick place to start is with your local or regional plastic surgery societies including your country's Society of Plastic Surgeons. Just check if they're truly certified in their region or their country so that you have a higher chance of being safe.

*Study Source: Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Journal
*Interview source: The Doctors (Youtube channel)