Should you get plastic surgery overseas?

plastic surgery abroad

Despite its accessibility in Canada, many patients continue to make the decision to undergo plastic surgery procedures abroad. Websites that endorse these procedures boast that travelling to countries such as Brazil, Thailand and South Africa can save savvy travellers money without sacrificing quality and safety. Yet horror stories of botched plastic surgeries, serious infections and even fatal complications frequent headlines around the globe. Two plastic surgeons discuss the risks that patients face when booking cosmetic procedures abroad and why staying on home turf can save their lives.

Why Do People Consider Plastic Surgery Abroad?

The allure of vacationing during the coldest Canadian months is nothing out of the ordinary. The thought of recovering from a cosmetic surgery procedure while on vacation can be just as tempting, says Dr. Quinton Chivers, MD, FRCSC.

“Patients travel abroad for plastic or cosmetic surgery for a variety of reasons” says Dr. Chivers. “The most common, however, is the thought of combining a surgical procedure and its recovery time with a vacation and the perception of reduced costs.”

This perception has patients jet-setting all over the globe, giving some countries a reputation for specializing in certain surgeries. “A variety of countries, including Mexico and the Dominican Republic, tend to attract a higher number of body contouring procedures. Iran tends to attract rhinoplasty patients, while hair transplantation tends to be popular in Greece and India.”

The Risks Involved with Surgery Abroad

While patients are dreaming of their new Brazilian butt lift, they can at times fail to recognize the chances they take when travelling for surgeries. Dr. Michael Kreidstein, MD, MSc, FRCSC, talks about risks that may not be as obvious. “What patients fail to appreciate is that their travel insurance will not cover complications from cosmetic surgery, exposing patients to the full cost of any emergency care that becomes necessary,” he says. “You are also gambling on the chance that you won’t require any post-operative intervention by your surgeon once you return home.”

Not to mention that if the semantics of the surgery seem too good to be true, it might be because you’re not getting the standards you would in Canada. “The major reason for the increased costs of procedures in North America is the extensive training required,” explains Dr. Chiver. These same qualifications and regulations are simply not in place in different regions around the world.”

“When a patient schedules a cosmetic surgery abroad, it is often the first time she is meeting the surgeon and, more often than not, the last. Language barriers may be present. The patient does not have time to contemplate information she is given from the surgeon.”

Dr. Kreidstein agrees and points out that even surgeries performed by our neighbours to the south can still be risky. “We see a number of patients who have gone to the United States for surgery performed by ‘world-class experts,’ but Canadian surgeons on average are much better trained and experienced.”

Possible Results from Plastic Surgery Abroad

The results can be serious and sometimes life-threatening. “I typically see anywhere from three to five severe complications necessitating hospitalization from cosmetic surgery abroad each year,” says Dr. Chivers. These are cases like severe bleeding, life-threatening infections or significant nerve injuries impairing motor function. These numbers do not include the higher number of patients requiring revision surgery for minor surgical or cosmetic reasons.”

There may even be the possibility that surgeons may not want to correct a botched surgery upon your return home. “Our practice is very open to seeing complications from other practices because it is a great opportunity to help people in need,” says Dr. Kreidstein. “That said, the patients who sought out cheap surgery in the first place often have no money to pay for non-insured services. They are often frustrated and exhausted and direct their anger at their new plastic surgeon. They also require special arrangements for office visits, as a patient with a messed-up facelift sitting in your waiting room would not be good for business.”

Play it Safe

“Think of the lack of loved ones and support networks present to assist you and a complete lack of any meaningful aftercare or recourse should you be at all unhappy with your result,” says Dr. Chivers. “Surgery abroad just doesn’t make sense.”

What patients fail to appreciate is that their travel insurance will not cover complications FROM cosmetic surgery, exposing patients to the full cost of any emergency care that becomes necessary.