Plastic Surgery Abroad: How Safe Is It?
When thinking of vacation, most people think of rest and relaxation, and sipping a cocktail on a beach while getting a tan. Others see it as an opportunity to experience something a little bit more dramatic. Inexpensive plastic surgery can often be found outside of the United States, but unfortunately for some patients, it is not the bargain they had hoped for.
Checking the quality and credentials of surgeons and surgical facilities outside of the United States can be difficult, while in the United States we have much more oversight of healthcare. There are no U.S. laws that mandate the training and qualifications of physicians who perform plastic surgery outside the United States. This provides no protection for the patients, and if surgical negligence occurs, there may be no way to take legal action against the surgeon and/or facility where the surgery was performed.
In countries such as the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and the Philippines, some facilities that perform cosmetic surgery do not adhere to the same strict safety standards that are required in the U.S. It is important to know if the facility’s medical standards of care, and quality control requirements are comparable to the United States. It is also important to research if the hospital or clinic is accredited by the Joint Commission International (JCI). To receive the accreditation, international hospitals and clinics must meet the same set of rigorous standards set forth in the U.S. by the Joint Commission. Many foreign surgical facilities are privately owned and operated, which may make it difficult for someone researching a cosmetic procedure to check the credentials of all the medical personnel, including the surgeon and anesthesiologist.
Additionally, it is important to ensure that the devices and products used in the surgery meet U.S. standards. There is no regulation in terms of sterile technique, modern instrumentation, and equipment. In regards to breast augmentation, implants used in the U.S. must meet strict standards of safety and effectiveness, as regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but other countries may not have similar regulations. Ignoring these important issues may lead to a higher risk of complications and/or infections, and often patients are left with less than desirable results.
An important aspect of surgery is the follow-up care. Even if a patient may feel good, post-operative visits are an important aspect of the process to ensure a patient’s body is healing appropriately, and is also critical for preventing future complications. Many patients who leave the country for procedures receive little or no follow-up care, leading to an increased risk of infections and complications, and less than ideal results. In some situations, patients who had surgery performed at a border clinic return to find the doctor who had operated on them is no longer there, because the surgeon had come in from a different part of the country. It is important to find a surgeon not to just operate on you, but who gets to know you and will be with you every step of the way through the entire healing process.
The majority of patients who have experienced complications from cosmetic surgery performed outside the U.S., have no other choice but to find another plastic surgeon to assist in their treatment and provide revision surgeries. This can be frustrating and could cost the patient additional money and time. It may be hard to find a surgeon to address your issues, as treatment may be difficult without knowing what surgical techniques were used during the initial operation. Revision surgeries are often much more complicated, and often the patient will not be able to achieve the results they desired before the initial surgery. The cost of revision surgeries and complications may total more, than if a patient had performed the initial operation in the United States.
If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. Patients who have decided to undergo a cosmetic surgery procedure should not sacrifice on quality care to save money. Cosmetic surgery is real surgery; it is an invasive procedure and it is not worth putting your body at risk. You should feel confident about your plastic surgery decision.
Make sure to research your doctor and surgical facility thoroughly to avoid the risks associated with plastic surgery abroad. If you have any questions about plastic surgery abroad, please email me directly at DrAzad@KamranAzadMD.com.