(Aired 04.12.14}

While there are excellent doctors both here and in other countries, we are highlighting both the pros and cons of having plastic, reconstructive or cosmetic surgery abroad.  There are growing numbers of individuals  who make the decision to have surgery outside of the U.S. despite the documented risks involved.  Our key message is still centered on safety and getting the facts before you make decisions that could prove disastrous.  We will discuss the number one motive for most people – the ramifications (both financial and medical)  of  having plastic surgery on the cheap. The truth is whatever the choice, here or abroad, caution should be exercised.

 What is Medical Tourism?

Traveling to another country to seek cosmetic or reconstructive surgery. Typically patients are motivated by the reduced cost of these trips.

What Makes it so Enticing

  • Price : could be 20%-80% less than here in the U.S.
  • Vacation + surgery : Patients think having this done in a foreign country will be like a vacation, however the recovery time may not allow you to enjoy the city where the procedure takes place.
  • Secrecy of having the procedure done : many patients are looking for this procedure to be kept a secret.

Medical Tourism Companies

Medical tourism service companies have become a twenty billion dollar industry. Some were founded & operated by U.S. physicians but claim they do not:

  • provide medical referral services
  • do not provide healthcare or medical advice
  • “we do not endorse, recommend or approve a healthcare provider listed on the sites”
  • use of any provider not licensed within the U.S. is done solely at your own risk
  • you must agree to assume all responsibility in connection with choosing your doctor

What is International Accreditation?

In 1999, the U.S.-based Joint Commission launched it’s international affiliate agency JC Int’l Hospitals. There are over 500 facilities have been awarded JCI accreditation, meaning they have met the standards of this agency. Each year this grows by 20%, adding new hospitals to their list of accredited hospitals.

Top destinations include: Brazil, Costa Rica, India, Korea, Malyasia, Mexico, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey

Pros of Medical Tourism

  • An average of 40-80% savings from surgery in America
  • Medications cost less in other countries than in America
  • The U.S. dollar goes a lot farther in other countries; you get more for your money
  • You get to recover in a relaxing, tropical environment
  • Some insurance companies are facilitating arrangements for patients who choose lower-cost offshore hospitals
  • Growing number of private businesses have encouraged their insured employees to travel abroad 

Where Do Patients Travel

There are excellent surgeons all over the world; here is list of plastic surgeons (does not distinguish between board and non board certified surgeons)  in the world.

  • United States: 5,950
  • Brazil: 5,024
  • China: 2000
  • United Kingdom: 450
  • Canada: 425

(source:  USA Today)

 Concerns & Risks

  • What happens in the event of a medical emergency?
  • What about if the surgery is botched?   No legal recourse.
  • Who would be willing to treat you in the event of  an emergency?
  • Although rare, botched surgery can occur anywhere – it happens on U.S. soil. 

What to Ask a Surgeon Who is Abroad (outside the U.S.) 

  • Is it OK for me to have surgery the day I fly in from the U.S.?
  • If so am I at risk for any additional complication from flying? Blood clots?
  • Are you board certified?
  • What happens if there is a complication during surgery and I need a blood transfusion? What are the standards with blood regulations? Is there a chance that I may contract a disease from a blood transfusion.
  • Where will my surgery take place? Is this facility JCI accredited?
  • If not, how will I know if this is a sterile environment?
  • What are my legal rights in your country?
  • How long should I stay here for my recovery? Can I fly back home immediately and not be at the risk of any complications such as blood clots?
  • Will there be someone fluent in English that can answer my questions before, during and after my surgery?
  • Why is the cost for this surgery so much less than in the U.S. ?