We’ve said it before, but obviously it bears repeating: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Of course you know this already! You’re aware that if you’re offered a “free” getaway, you will at least have to listen to an exhausting timeshare pitch. And when you get those “you are a guaranteed winner” mailers from car dealers, you can be pretty sure if you show up to claim your prize you will have won the $1, not the big screen TV.
There are very few great deals in this world that come without some kind of catch. Most of us fall for this kind of scheme once or twice with minimal consequences. Unfortunately, for people who choose “too good to be true” plastic surgery, the catch can be an unexpected outcome. We are especially dismayed to hear about patients who opt for so-called “plastic surgery vacations” abroad only to end up with poor results or worse.
When you read a pitch from one of the companies that operate in the medical tourism business, it can sound compelling. They are often very accomplished at marketing, and will emphasize the many aspects of plastic surgery in another country with flair, but not necessarily with logic.
Here’s an example of what we mean. A medical tourism company with “Safari” in their name promotes trips into the bush, to game reserves and safari lodges on their website. Here’s the catch, for a variety of reasons including being away from care, environmental impacts (like too much dust and sun) and simply the need to rest, you really should not consider a safari for at least several weeks after surgery. Indeed, if you read the small print on this firm’s website, you can find a comment about how most patients choose to focus on surgery and some return another time to explore the countryside.
Another company offers you the “ultimate gorgeous makeover” at a low cost at one of their three destinations in Asia. The catch here? Possibly safety. A few days ago a news website in Australia reported that a 31-year old man chose an ultimate makeover, was allowed to fly home even while suffering some complications, and died just days later. The patient chose what news.com.au described as “marathon” plastic surgery, including a tummy tuck, liposuction, an eyelid lift, a chin tuck, lip filler, a thigh lift and chest sculpting. Not reporting how many days the man stayed with his caregivers, the article did say the procedures were performed “back-to-back.”
In our view, this highly aggressive approach to cosmetic surgery just doesn’t make sense. No matter how many days were involved, this young man spent too many hours on the operating table and his body endured too much trauma in too short a time.
We’re sure that most patients who travel abroad for plastic surgery are perfectly safe, and many are probably satisfied with their results. But clearly this is not the case for everyone. In fact, news.com.au reported the President of the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons mentioned that he knew of at least 12 patients who returned home to face complications that required intervention by Australian doctors.
If you’re considering signing up with one of the medical tourism companies, there are other factors to consider, such as:
• How difficult it is to evaluate the credentials of a surgeon and medical facility from afar
• If you have a complication after you leave paradise, U.S. doctors may not want to treat you
• Should you have a bad outcome, you will probably have no legal recourse
But leaving all that aside for now, consider this: a very well known risk of flying after surgery is deep vein thrombosis (DVT). This is when blood clots form, usually in the legs. They can come loose, travel to the lungs and stop the flow of blood. This is exactly what happened with the Australian patient, according to the local coroner.
If you’re interested in cosmetic surgery, it may be tempting to fly to another country. But along with the additional risks, some of the advantages are suspect. You probably will not be able to experience many of the local sights while you’re in recovery, much less go on safari. And while you will have the opportunity to be away from your daily cares, you can make that happen at home without sacrificing your familiar environment and support network.
It really all comes down to cost. In the hands of an experienced board certified plastic surgeon in the U.S., the cost of a procedure will certainly be more than in many corners of the world. But isn’t your health worth it?
Photo by Yosomono, available thorough Creative Commons