Medical Tourism: Is It Too Good To Be True?

Medical tourism (also known as medical travel or health tourism) is a term to describe the rapidly-growing practice of travelling across international borders to obtain health care. People are enticed by the idea of having a vacation in a beautiful, exotic location while undergoing cosmetic procedures and plastic surgery at a fraction of the cost.

Overseas medical providers work with over 300 medical travel companies in the United States to offer low-cost “medical tourism” packages which combine cosmetic surgery with a luxury vacation in places such as India, Mexico, the Philippines, Costa Rica and China. An estimated half a million Americans traveled outside of the United States for medical care in 2011, spending an average of $3,000 per procedure. This number is expected to grow 25-35 percent a year. Cosmetic surgery is the number one specialty that attracts medical tourists, followed by dentistry, orthopedics, reproductive issues and weight loss surgery.

There have been countless reportsworldwide of undesirable results from medical tourism. Cosmetic and plastic surgery are serious surgical procedures. Patients need to understand that there are certain risks involved with all surgeries. Traveling to an unknown place where you have no friends or family to assist you during your recovery poses even more risks. Price-driven all-inclusive surgical vacation packages can increase risks for unwanted (and in some cases disastrous) outcomes such as disfigurement and fatal infections. Unsightly scars, blood collection and unsatisfactory results may also occur. Dangerous blood clots can commonly form during long airplane flights after complicated procedures.

These “vacation packages” are marketed in brochures showing people swimming in the ocean, running on the beach, etc. The truth of the matter is, if you are recovering from major surgery, you will not be partaking in any of these activities for several weeks.

Post-operative care is almost as important as the procedure itself. Are the patients staying at their vacation destination for more than a couple weeks? Follow-up appointments are made up to 6-7 weeks for various procedures to make sure patients are free of all complications that may arise. Within this time, many different surgical complications such as infection and blood accumulation can occur. What happens to the patient if they experience complications after they come home? Will they fly back with an infection or a blood clot? Some insurance companies will not cover any follow-up care due to these complications as the original surgery was performed overseas.  

If you or a friend are considering having surgery abroad, there any many questions you have to answer before booking your flilght.

Is the physician qualified? Are the medical facility and equipment safe?

Although there are many qualified physicians practicing all over the world in excellent facilities, it can be difficult to verify physician training, or the standards of medical facilities and equipment.

Patients can significantly decrease potential dangers of medical tourism by thoroughly researching both the doctor and facility, or by selecting an ASPS Member Surgeon Abroad or an International Member Surgeon. You should also check the acceditation status of any doctor, hospital or facility. The Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations’ (JCAHO) international affiliate agency, the Joint Commission International, accredits more than 400 hospital facilities around the world based on Joint Commission standards for United States hospitals. The total number of accredited international facilities is growing by 20 percent annually.

How will my post-operative care and any complications be handled?

Patients should consider that even routine post-op care (such as changing dressings and monitoring healing) can be necessary for several weeks—long after your “vacation” is over. You can not plan your trip for 2 weeks and plan the first week for the surgery and recovery and expect to be able to go jet-skiing the following week before you head back home.

And patients should also determine if they have insurance coverage for complications resulting from cosmetic procedures overseas.

  • Before surgery, patients should research the potential plastic surgery risks and side effects for their particular procedure

Are travel and vacation activities compatible with surgery?

Although enticing, most vacation activities should be avoided after surgery, and a long return flight increases the risk of developing blood clots amd a pulmonary embolism (a bloot clot that travels from the legs into the lungs).

  • Your surgeon should discuss what you can expect during recovery, and what you can do to minimize risk
Whether you are considering plastic surgery in the United States or overseas, patients should use technology and the internet to their advantage. Research who you are entrusting your life and body with. Make sure they are qualified to perform safe and effective surgery. Read up on the risks associated with surgery and be prepared should problems occur down the road. Buyer, beware.
To learn more about medical tourism, visit the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and please call our office at (212)472-8700 to speak with Dr. Monasebian and schedule an appointment today.
Dr. Monasebian and Park Avenue Plastic Surgery are committed to performing the highest quality care, which is why our office based surgical office is accredited by the Joint Commission. We also provide all aesthetic and reconstructive surgical procedures of the face, breast and body including: Facelift, Forehead Lift and Browlift, Blepharoplasty (Eyelid Lift), Rhinoplasty (Surgery of the Nose), Genioplasty (Surgery of the Chin), Lip Enhancement and Jaw Implants, Cheek Dimples and Chin Clefts, Neck and Facial Liposuction, Removal of Skin Cancer and Skin Lesions, Treatment of Facial Lacerations and Facial Fractures, Scar Revision, Cosmetic Revision of Previous Facial Surgery, Corrective Jaw (Orthognathic) Surgery, Facial Neurosurgery, Facial Reconstruction, Burns and Burn Reconstruction, Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate, Silicone and Saline Breast Implant Augmentation, Breast Lift, Breast Reduction, Male Breast Reduction (Gynecomastia), Breast Reconstruction, Abdominoplasty (Tummy Tuck), Liposuction and Liposculpture, Brachioplasty (Arm Lift), Buttock and Thigh Lift, Vaginal Rejuvenation and Labiaplasty, Body Lifting and Contouring after weight loss and gastric bypass surgery, and Tattoo Removal.  Non-surgical skin and laser procedures provided at Park Avenue Plastic Surgery include: BOTOX® and Juvéderm® Injections, Chemical Peeling and Dermabrasion, Dermasweep Microdermabrasion, Laser Hair Removal, Laser Skin Care and Mole Removal, Skin Resurfacing and Skin Retoning, Face and Body Spider Vein Removal, Surgical Hair Restoration, and the Exclusive Vivité® Skin Care Line.

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Park Avenue Plastic Surgery
784 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10021
T 212.472.8700