What are the Risks of Traveling Overseas for Plastic Surgery?

Posted April 11, 2018

Patients who desire to make a change in their appearance through plastic surgery are often tempted to go outside the United States in order to save money. According to a new study published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, patients might save money initially but they could be subject to risks that are long lasting.

Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital studied what happens when a patient travels to another country for cosmetic surgery. Dr. Dennis Orgill, the author of the study and the medical director at the Wound Care Center of Brigham and Young said, “Many think of medical tourism as wealthy patients traveling to receive care at high quality medical institutions abroad, but what we’re reporting on here are repercussions that can result when patients return to their home countries to undergo elective plastic surgery procedures at a lower price.”

Orgill and his team studied data from 78 patients that live in the United States. These 78 people travelled abroad for plastic surgery. They had a variety of procedures performed but breast augmentation and abdominoplasty were the procedures most associated with complications. In addition, the majority of the patients travelled to the Dominican Republic for their surgeries.

Once they returned to the United States, many of the patients had complications that included pain, infections at the surgical site, problems with wound healing and hernias.  As an example, a 43-year-old woman suffered from skin breakdown three weeks after her tummy tuck in the Dominican Republic. It was later discovered that a drain had been left inside her and it was causing an infection. After the drain was removed, she was left with scar tissue and a deformed stomach.

According to the authors of the study, these complications burden the patient as well as “primary care providers, insurers and plastic surgical teams not associated with the original surgery.”

The study authors added “we hope this study will bring attention to this emerging issue and encourage others to report any results related to medical tourism treatment and pattern. We hope that the global plastic surgery community will promote better solutions to these complex issues.”



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