The Hidden Risks of Medical Tourism
With advances in technology and widespread publicity of stunning cosmetic results, plastic surgery is now more popular than ever. Out of this demand has sprung a 20 billion dollar industry termed “medical tourism,” where people seeking aesthetic enhancement from the US, UK, or Europe travel to places where their currency goes further, greatly reducing the cost of plastic surgery. In countries like India certain procedures run 80% less than similar treatments in the US, and the international medical group Patients Beyond Borders estimates nearly 550,000 Americans are lured each year by package deals of tropical locales and low plastic surgery prices. While many times these operations are successful, when things go wrong it can end up costing patients far more than what they bargained for. Below are a few of the hidden risks we suggest patients consider before boarding an international flight for their next treatment.
Any time you visit a foreign country you risk exposing yourself to different diseases most Americans’ immune systems aren’t used to. This risk increases dramatically when your body is recovering from surgery. Ailments considered rare in the US such as tuberculosis, typhoid, and infections of antibiotic resistant bacteria as well as gastrointestinal viruses such as Hepatitis A, amoebic dysentery, and paratyphoid, can be more common medical tourism hotspots like India or Thailand. Medical standards are also different for every country, and common practices like screening donated blood for diseases may be neglected. If you’re considering an operation abroad research potential hospitals with these risks in mind, and look for independent medical accreditations from organizations like JCI, UKAF, MTA, and Trent.
Due to the constrictions of vacation days, money, or visas, many medical tourists schedule the minimum amount of post-treatment recovery before returning to the states. This is a very dangerous choice to make. Much of the success of a cosmetic operation relies on proper healing, and enduring eighteen hour travel days during the most crucial time for recuperation can lead to serious complications. Also, air travel increases the risk of developing blood clots and dangerous issues like venous thrombosis or pulmonary embolus syndrome. If you do choose to get an operation done abroad, always ensure that you’ll have extra days to rest before heading back.
Ramifications of the Language Barrier
Going to a hospital where English isn’t the primary language makes it difficult to collect important information before and after the procedures. Often when people buy a package travel-and-treatment deal they aren’t able to pick their doctor or discern their qualifications beforehand. Even if you can confirm the background of a surgeon, inexperienced assistants will sometimes take the place of the advertised doctor, perform the procedure, and disappear without following up with the patient or outlining recuperation strategies. Worse still, if the surgery is compromised it is often difficult to the hospitals files on the operation, a vital part of revision surgery. President of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons has seen these situations all too many times, as he related to BBC Online, “I had a patient who was torn to bits in Istanbul, another who went to Cuba whose face lift was a disaster. I have no records to go on—it’s horrendous.”
A survey of 2,000 US revision surgeons conducted by Dr. Alizadeh of the Nassau University Medical Center revealed that over half of their patients who got surgery abroad require one or more follow up surgeries due to complications. If things do take a turn for the worse and you’re unhappy with your surgical results, getting revision surgery to fix it stateside could end up costing more than the original surgery. Stacey Cavaliere, a New Yorker who underwent a disastrous tummy tuck operation in Costa Rica, ended up having to pay for eight separate surgeries in the US to repair the damage that was done to her body. While it is possible to seek legal redress for botched work overseas, that means hiring a lawyer, translators, and securing an expert local witness, a long shot in most cases.
No surgery is without risks and excellent surgeons exist in every country. With that said, you should carefully weigh the risks of medical tourism and decide whether the price is worth it. If you’re interested in exploring affordable cosmetic treatments performed by certified American doctors, contact us! Our PSP representatives can schedule you a free, no obligation consultation with a plastic surgeon near you!
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