Understanding why “lipo-tourism” or cosmetic surgery tourism is an attractive option for those seeking plastic surgery is not difficult. Who would not be interested in combining what many believe to be “minor” surgery with travel to an exotic destination at a fraction of the cost of the equivalent procedure domestically? What is easily overlooked in the excitement of monetary savings are the potential physical and health costs associated with post operative complications (both in terms of the patient’s financial liability and subsequent morbidity).
Unfortunately no surgery is free of the risk of potential complications. Patients have complications here just as they do elsewhere. The difference…proximity to your operating surgeon.
In the case of lipo-tourism, complications can be magnified by multiple factors:
-Inadequately or unregulated foreign facilities and hospitals
-Inaccessible medical records or poor documentation
-Delayed post complication care due patient reluctance to seek medical attention after returning home (for financial reasons) or difficulty in finding a surgeon willing to deal with another’s complications
-Infections stemming from foreign and unfamiliar or resistant pathogens
It is unlikely that this phenomenon will come to an end, rather, trends demonstrate an increasing popularity. Yet it remains vitally important that patients are educated about the risks of “lipo-tourism” in order to minimize the likelihood of complications. Patients are encouraged to check the credentials of any potential surgeon (foreign or domestic). To aid this, the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons is developing a program to enact certification standards and recognize surgeons’ competency and dedication to patient safety (in a fashion similar to the American Board of Plastic Surgeons). Patients and physicians should also be aware of the U.S. Joint Commission on International Accreditation which to date has accredited some 80 hospitals in 18 countries.
Seeking care through a surgeon certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgeons is always regarded as a prudent choice. However, for those patients seeking care abroad, they need to be well informed of the added risks to aid them in making safe decisions regarding their care.