Having surgery at a reduced rate in a foreign country sounds appealing, but there are many concerns that you should consider. Generally, there is no preoperative direct discussion with the surgeon who is going to perform the surgery in order to establish any reasonable doctor/patient relationship. There are often language barriers that can interfere with your care. Even if your surgeon speaks English, the ancillary personnel like the nurses and the anesthesia provider who are involved in your care, may not. The quality of hospitals outside of the U.S. varies tremendously. Some are accredited and inspected, others are not. Even if the hospital has reasonable facilities and the surgeon has training, which may not be up to the quality of training of a plastic surgeon certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, the quality of the nurses and others involved in your care may be very different from that in the United States. They may have little or no formal medical education, training or credentialing.
There is usually little follow-up care. In addition, the general sanitary conditions often increase the risk of infections, including some that are generally rare in this country.
There are major potential problems that may occur with traveling long distances just before and after surgery, like dehydration and fatigue, but more importantly complications including clots in the legs called deep venous thrombosis and clots to the lung which may be life threatening.
In most countries, if a problem develops, you will have little legal recourse and no ability to file a complaint either against the hospital or about the surgeon. If complications
develop after you return home, it may be difficult or impossible to obtain care from your local physicians. If problems do occur, the cost of subsequent care can be far greater than the reduced cost of the original surgery. While there are well-trained physicians in many other countries, I would suggest that you travel for pleasure or business and have your surgery closer to home.
Robert Singer, MDFACS
La Jolla, California