Medical Tourism: Top 4 Steps to Guarantee a Safe Cosmetic Procedure

Jager Weatherby on 30 Oct 2014 at 6:30pm

Surgical Tools

Every day we read stories on RealSelf about cosmetic procedures that transform people’s lives: Women who’ve undergone massive weight loss procedures to finally get healthy for the first time in years; mothers who’ve regained their confidence after spending the last two decades focused on their kids; and breast cancer survivors who’ve reclaimed their curves through breast reconstruction following a mastectomy. On the medical side, there’s also the amazing philanthropic work our doctors do, traveling all around the globe providing free healthcare to those in need.

These stories are heartwarming, emotional, and incredibly inspiring, yet there’s a different side to plastic surgery that casts a shadow on these positive journeys.

We see the headlines all too often — stories of women who have suffered permanent damage (or sometimes even death) after undergoing unsafe procedures in an effort to save money. Following the recent tragic deaths of two UK citizens who traveled to foreign countries to see uncertified doctors, the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS) has issued a warning about medical tourism.

RELATED: #RealStory: Why I Chose to do My Plastic Surgery in the United States

“Cosmetic surgery abroad can be incredibly risky because the standards vary from one country to the next,” says Susumu Takayanagi, MD, president of ISAPS. “It’s essential that patients find board-certified plastic surgeons, regardless of where they have a procedure performed. Patient safety is our highest priority. ISAPS membership is exclusive to board-certified plastic surgeons who must be current members of their national plastic surgery society.”

“Patients fall prey to unlicensed physicians because of the misconception that anyone with an MD can safely perform any surgical procedure,” adds Dr. Michael C. Edwards, president of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. “There is a need for countries to establish strict regulations controlling who can perform plastic surgery procedures and the surgical setting in which they are performed.”

MORE: 10 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Picking a Plastic Surgeon

ISAPS has called for global changes in legislation to avoid these unnecessary deaths. If you’re considering a procedure, either in your home country or abroad, they’ve also shared the top four steps you should go through in order to ensure the safest surgery with the best possible outcome:

  • Research the type and duration of the procedure: It’s imperative to conduct thorough research, have realistic expectations, and choose the procedure that’s right for you. Should you be undergoing multiple procedures during a single visit, make sure they can be completed in a safe amount of time. For guidance: Typical surgeries can be completed in one to three hours, while combination procedures should usually take no more than six.
  • Do a medical screening with your surgeon: Your plastic surgeon — not a nurse or any other non-board-certified staff member — must conduct a medical screening to determine whether or not you’re a good candidate for the procedure. It’s essential to be open about any health issues or previous surgeries with your doctor. Leaving out details could seriously complicate things down the road.
  • Choose an experienced, board-certified surgeon: Choose a surgeon who’s certified under ISAPS, has an excellent safety record, and has a great deal of experience performing your procedure. You can do this by verifying their training credentials with the medical board in your surgeon’s country and researching doctor reviews on RealSelf.
  • Verify that you’ll be in a certified or accredited surgical setting: As previously discussed, standards can vary from country to country. Whether your procedure will be performed in a hospital or an outpatient surgery center, make sure the location is certified or accredited. Ask for certification information and the name of the certifying body, or check with an accrediting body such as the American Association for Accreditation for Ambulatory Surgery Facilities International (AAAASFI).