Medical Tourism and Cosmetic Surgery: What You Should Know

By: Allan E. Wulc, MD March 1, 2017 Category: General

Ahh, vacation: sun, sand, and… surgery? Medical tourism refers to those who travel to another country for medical care, and may be especially appealing for those seeking cut rates on cosmetic surgery. With nearly 1.5 million Americans traveling for healthcare this year, destinations such as Costa Rica, Brazil and Mexico seem to offer the benefits of vacation abroad with the bonus of less expensive cosmetic procedures. However, as with any medical procedure, it’s important to have the facts when it comes to surgery abroad. Cosmetic surgery is not without risks, and seeking care in a foreign country can lead to a special set of complications. Here are five things to keep in mind when thinking about medical tourism.

Licensing and qualifications vary by country
One of the most important decisions you need to make when considering cosmetic surgery is choosing a well-trained, experienced physician. When it comes to choosing a physician internationally, it can be confusing to understand the differing qualifications by country. Each nation has different certification processes and it can be difficult for an outsider to understand which clinics offer the safest procedures and best results, or even whether the physician or clinic is licensed and accredited.

W Cosmetic Surgery is home to the only practice in the Philadelphia area where a single surgeon is Board Certified in ophthalmology, plastic surgery, eye and facial plastic surgery, and facial cosmetic surgery. This allows us to provide the highest level of care for both surgical and nonsurgical procedures.

Important facts may become lost in translation
Overcoming the language barrier can be a huge hurdle, and the stakes are even higher when it’s your health that is in question. As the Centers for Disease Control points out, “receiving care at a facility where you do not speak the language fluently might increase the chance that misunderstandings will arise about your care,” which can impact the success of the procedure or even impact your safety. It’s vital that you are able to understand your surgeon and ask any questions you may have. Sacrificing the ability to speak freely with your surgeon is a big price to pay for a cosmetic procedure abroad.

Beginning with your consultation, we believe that it is vitally important to freely discuss your needs and wants with our team. Our knowledgeable, friendly staff can create a personalized plan that fits your wishes and your budget.

You may not be protected as a consumer
As with any surgery, things can potentially go wrong during a cosmetic procedure. In the United States there is extensive consumer protection that gives you options if something should happen, and medical malpractice laws are in place to allow patients to sue in some cases. When traveling internationally for cosmetic surgery you do not have the same protection as in the US and, depending on the country where the surgery takes place, may not be able to receive compensation if the surgery doesn’t go well.

FDA standards do not apply internationally
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) controls the drugs and medical devices that are sold in the United States, and sets safety and quality standards that these products must follow. These standards do not apply internationally, and you should be aware that the quality of materials and drugs used internationally may differ than those in the US.

Vacation? Think again.
It seems like the ideal option- surgery in a tropical paradise followed by days on the beach and nights on the town. Though every surgery is different and recommendations will vary by procedure and patient, careful post-operative care and follow-up is essential to success. This typically means taking it easy and babying your skin, especially for more invasive procedures. Hold off on booking that snorkeling excursion until you fully understand the recuperation process for your procedure. It’s also not advisable to fly right after surgery, as it can increase the risk for blood clots. Understand how long you may have to remain in the country before safely returning home, as this can increase the overall length and cost of the stay.

While medical tourism seems like a great way to see the world while getting a bargain on your cosmetic surgery, it’s important to understand the safety risks when choosing a clinic abroad. In many cases, the risks outweigh the rewards, and it’s important to remember that while cost certainly matters, your safety is of the ultimate importance when considering a medical procedure.

If you have any questions or would like to learn more about the cosmetic procedures we offer, contact us online or by phone at 484-436-4104. Our cosmetic surgery experts can help find the procedure that is right for you.

Allan E. Wulc, MD

About the Author

Allan E. Wulc, MD is the lead surgeon at W Cosmetic Surgery and is Quadruple Board Certified with over 25 years experience in cosmetic and plastic surgery. Dr. Wulc is a leader in his field and pioneer of new surgical techniques. His work has been featured in lectures, presentations, and publications worldwide. Find out more about Dr. Wulc.