Medical Tourism: What’s the Real Problem with Traveling Outside the States?

shutterstock_126992021While the benefits of domestic medical tourism can be numerous, traveling outside of the U.S. can prove to be a dangerous and expensive venture. More and more, we see patients returning home with horror stories of botched cosmetic procedures, costing them thousands of dollars to repair and causing unnecessary emotional turmoil. Going abroad to save money may seem like a good idea, but I discourage you from doing so for a number of reasons:

Standards for safety & sanitation may not be what you expect. Doctors in other countries may not be held to the same rigorous standards as cosmetic surgeons certified by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery or other reputable U.S. medical boards. Your anesthesiology and nursing team also play a critical role: your safety will be dependent upon their having proper training and certification. The same can be said of the cleanliness and preparedness of their operating arena—outside the U.S. it is harder to verify if a surgeon operates in a clean, safe environment that includes backup measures for life safety.

Potential risk for complications is higher. Countries like India, Malaysia and Thailand—popular destinations for medical tourists—are host to an entirely different set of infectious diseases than North America, thus the risk of complications due to infection is much higher for visitors who have not built up any immunity to these diseases.

Travel time can impact your recovery.  Long flights can increase the danger of post-surgical circulatory risks like deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolisms. Even for patients traveling domestically, I insist on creating a safety plan if the flight back home exceeds 5 hours. This includes getting up to walk every two hours, something which is likely not feasible during the entirety of an overseas flight or may not even be mentioned by the surgeon at discharge.

The price to fix substandard results can quickly add up. Though cheap prices advertised abroad may seem appealing, there’s no guarantee as to what your procedure will actually cost you. Take the example of “Sienna,” who traveled abroad for an eyelid lift and liposuction. She was given the wrong name tag and ended up receiving an unwanted facelift instead—and a low quality one at that. After undergoing a number of corrective operations, the final cost of Sienna’s “discount” procedure was $50,000—many times more than the cost of a quality facelift in the U.S. and every penny of her savings.

There are no laws protecting American citizens who have medical procedures performed out of the country. The patient in the example above had no recourse for her misfortune and neither would any other patient traveling abroad who might have a similar experience. This is an important fact to keep in mind, yet one few patients are fully aware of.

You do have safe out of town surgery options

Having cosmetic surgery out of town can be safe and successful if approached properly. Taking advantage of the stricter safety standards and availability of specialty medical boards overseeing certification programs, a little research can turn up the perfect board certified cosmetic surgeon for your needs.

I am honored that each year a substantial percentage of my patients come from out of town. While patients choose to travel to Las Vegas for cosmetic surgery for a number of different reasons, all of them want the best results possible in a safe, caring environment. We’ve created a Planning Guide for Out of Town Patients to help make your medical tour successful.

Whether you can make a trip to visit the Cosmetic Surgery of Las Vegas team or wish to discuss your options over the phone, call us at (702) 363-0240 or contact us online to discuss any questions you may have and to schedule your appointment today.

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