Traveling out of the country for plastic surgery is a trend that is gaining exposure as the idea of combining plastic surgery with a “vacation” is enticing. Considering that the up-front cost is generally less expensive when compared with cost of plastic surgery in the U.S. the idea of traveling out of the country for plastic surgery suddenly becomes more appealing. While there are plenty of highly regarded plastic surgeons around the world, how is one able to decipher who is properly trained, has credentials comparable to what he/she would have in the U.S., has a credentialed surgical facility in which he/she performs surgery, and has licensed qualified anesthesiologists who administer anesthesia? The following are some points to consider when considering traveling abroad for plastic surgery:
Credentialing: In the U.S., there are strict guidelines that must be followed in order to obtain and maintain surgical and facility credentialing. Additionally, a U.S. board certified plastic surgeon must display expertise by passing rigorous oral and written examinations and stay current with advances in medicine and surgical techniques through continuing education. Many countries outside the U.S. have less stringent guidelines to adhere to which can increase surgical risks and complications and negatively affect a patient’s safety and surgical result.
One can locate credentials for board certified plastic surgeons relatively easily as there are boards which ensure that he/she achieves and maintains the highest possible level of expertise and competence. This ensures the most reliable, predictable and safe outcome for patients. The following governing boards were established specifically to credential plastic surgeons.
American Board of Medical Specialties: www.abms.org
American Board of Plastic Surgery: www.abplsurg.org
American Society of Plastic Surgeons: www.plasticsurgery.org
Recovery and post-op care: What is the protocol if a complication arises once a patient arrives home? Most plastic surgeons in the U.S. will not see a patient for follow-ups or a complication/ side effect unless he/she performed the surgery. It is impossible for the local plastic surgeon to know for sure what was done during the surgery so most will steer clear of caring for any patient who has had surgery abroad. This can create a situation where recovery and healing is less than ideal. If a local plastic surgeon will not see patients for post-op or follow-up appointments, how will the necessary care be given? Unfortunately for the patient, the outcome may include a return to the country where surgery took place. This brings up the next point to consider…cost.
Cost: Cost is often times the number one reason patients seek to have plastic surgery outside the U.S. It is not uncommon for the costs associated with plastic surgery to be less than they are in the U.S. and that can be tied to the points illustrated earlier. The reality is that inexpensive plastic surgery can in fact become very costly when one considers the possible risk of post-surgical complications, revision surgeries and follow-up care. These are costly and necessary if a procedure does not yield the anticipated results and can quickly amount to more than the original surgery would have cost in the U.S.
With thorough research, a good result can be achieved with plastic surgery abroad. However, consider and research all options before making the decision to have any type of plastic surgery. The most important point to understand is that this is elective surgery. It is not medically necessary so choose wisely to help decrease the possible risk of needing medical attention at home, revision surgery and additional costs.