Monday, June 18, 2007

ASPS launches campaign on hazzards of medical tourism and cosmetic plastic surgery

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) has launched a campaign to educate the public about the potential issues surrounding cosmetic plastic surgery procedures being performed in Latin America and Southeast Asia.

Three principal issues are raised by this education effort that all patients should be thinking about.

  1. Is the physician qualified? Are the medical facility and equipment safe?
  2. How will my post-operative care and any complications be handled?
  3. Are travel and vacation activities compatible with surgery?

There certainly are first class operations performed in Mexico, South/Central America, and Southeast Asia. Many of the innovators in Plastic Surgery reside in Brazil, for instance. However, the quality of many of these "medical tourism" outfits seems dodgy at best. Doctors in states bordering Mexico report many anecdotes of scary medical practices they've seen where they had to end up holding the bag on serious surgical complications.

A group of Plastic Surgeons telling you not to go visit another group of Plastic Surgeons is always going to vulnerable to charges of slamming the "competition", or even charged with ethnocentrism or even racism when it involves Latinos locales in these PC times. However, this campaign is spot on in pointing out the practical problems with undergoing large operations without the safety-nets available in western countries.

The briefing summary of the ASPS patient information publication can be read here


Anonymous said...

I considered getting plastic surgery in Brazil. Many people can't afford to spend the thousands and at times, tens of thousands, to have the procedure. I know that it can impact their judgment.

I am in my early 20s and have been looking for a year and researching for a bit over 6 years for two procedures, one restorative. I had decided on getting the procedure with a very reputable surgeon in Brazil. That would have cost me $6,000 compared to the $14K and some change I it will cost me here. If not for the language barrier which made it difficult to communicate with his staff, I would have gone.

Dr. Rob Oliver said...

The cost difference is real as you point out. However, consider the circumstances if you have a complication (major or minor). Do you want to be in the 3rd world if you become ill? Recognize that complication rates requiring treatment for body contouring procedures (tummy tucks & body/thigh lifts) is fairly high. Many of these may not present themselves until you return home. You will have a lot of trouble finding surgeons willing to assume your care. You will also not be able to have minor revisions performed by your surgeon, which is very common after breast lifts & tummy tucks.

I have less reservations about procedures like breast augmentation, blepharoplasty, & even liposuction in distant locales as (in general) immeadiate complications are less frequent and tend to be more easily treated.

Josef Woodman said...

With all due respect, in researching and writing "Patients Beyond Borders," we came across very few medical travelers who had trouble obtaining post-op treatment once they returned home.

Patients who return with full documentation (clinic exit paperwork, x-rays, lab work, consultation notes, etc.) can usually expect to be treated once back at home. In addition, surgeons abroad are often happy to consult with local surgeons and physicians should any concerns or complications arise.

Assuming medical travelers do their homework, and select only the best clinics and surgeons, there should be no fear of treating patients post-op.

We believe the medical travel guidelines posted by the ASPS are reasonable, and nowhere do they appear to overtly discourage medical travel, or post dire warnings about post-op care.

We would all do well to take a level-headed, informed approach to a trend that will only continue to rise in popularity as patients head abroad for medical care.

Dr. Rob Oliver said...


Plastic Surgery is a distinct entity in re. to medical tourism as opposed to some of the other orthopedic and cardiac procedures being reported outsourced. Many of those institutions have established reciprocating relationships with stateside MD's to address issues that have been raised re. follow up & complications. That network does not exist in cosmetic surgery, and nearly all such procedures in these medi-tourist scenarios are done in offices and private clinics rather then full-service accredited hospitals.

I can tell you you're 100% off-base with the sugestion that you find surgeons readily willing to assume others complications. As a practical matter, it can be hard to find plastic surgeons to assume others complications even when they occur stateside.

I mentioned in another post that having plastic surgery done in Mexico, Thailand, etc.... and then having complications is going to mark you with a big red flag and make people reluctant to treat you. If they do, expect to be charged fees out the roof. It may not be fair, but that's the way it is.

I think you were reading another website if you came away from the ASPS briefing not feeling it was overtly warning against this practice. There are just too many issues that are unaddressable at present to recomend this for anything but the least morbid procedures for most Americans.

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Very informative post about Surgery Tourism, it's to give some helpful information to the people who want. Thank you for sharing Dr.Rob

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