Is there a way to ensure that if you travel abroad for plastic surgery that you can still get care after returning?

I live in Seattle but am seriously thinking about traveling to the Dominican Republic for a tummy tuck and breast lift. My concern is finding care for when I return if I need follow up care. Is there a way to find a doctor before I leave that I can work with when I return? Not traveling for the surgery is not an option because of cost and the results I am looking for. Any help is greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Doctor Answers 20

Plastic surgery care on return from DR surgery

Thank you for asking about your plastic surgery in the DR.

  • You certainly should, if you can, have a written agreement with a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon stating the s/he will provide you with post-operative care and the cost per hour of the care on your return, in the office, and the fees charged if you need additional surgery in the post-operative period.
  • There will probably be an agreement that you will not sue this surgeon for any disappointing result related to your DR surgery.
  • Such a surgeon may be hard to find but don't go without one.
  • With all due respect - and I know a lot of people go abroad for surgery - it has never made sense to me to go thousands of miles to a surgeon whom I have not met in a tropical county with known devastating post-operative infections, unreported patient deaths and where I do not speak the language and do not have family to help me.
  • If this is what you are doing, please be aware it is risky.
  • The FDA put out a warning specifically about DR surgery because of patients returning with incurable infections.
  • If you cannot afford safe surgery, at least consider saving the money and having it when you can afford it.

Always see a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon. Best wishes  - Elizabeth Morgan MD PHD FACS

Atlanta Plastic Surgeon
4.6 out of 5 stars 43 reviews

International travel for cosmetic surgery

Travelling internationally for cosmetic surgery is becoming more common - the perception is that care is cheaper in other countries and that quality is the same. This may or may not be true. I think the only scenario in which it makes sense to travel for cosmetic surgery is if you are able to remain in country for 2-3 months post operatively and achieve a full recovery with all complications managed before returning to the US.

Scott C. Sattler, MD, FACS
Seattle Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 65 reviews

Traveling abroad for plastic surgery?

All of the concerns you brought up - " i encounter any complications when i get back will i be able to go to a surgeon in my area for help? or will they deny me because i didn't get it done with them. or what can i do if this does happen" unfortunately are all possible. The British expression "Penny wise and pound foolish" comes to mind. 

Medical tourism has becoming increasingly popular in recent years; patients have been flying out of the U.S. for plastic surgery, lured by lower prices.
However, a parallel trend has also appeared: plastic surgeons in the United States are finding themselves treating an increasing number of patients who plastic surgery abroad, correcting complications and errors. A survey by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons found that 80% of the responding doctors had treated American medical tourists for complications including infection, contour abnormalities, and hematoma.
Medical tourists are often led to believe that they will receive the same quality of care for a lower price in a foreign clinic. But while it is true that the cost of plastic surgery in some foreign countries is lower, this is often because the quality of care and surgery is compromised. Such patients also seem to neglect the possibility of complications and the need for a follow-up visit.
In addition to the risks posed by sub-standard medical care abroad, medical tourists must consider the risks of injections and implants in other countries. The recent crisis with French breast implant maker Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) exemplifies this problem. PIP used industrial- rather than medical-grade silicone on their implants in an effort to reduce costs, a measure which probably increased the danger of rupture. PIP implants have not been used in the United States since 2000. Removal of these implants has been recommended by the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.
It is often the case that medical tourists end up spending more money because they have to pay to treat complications from their overseas surgery.

Larry S. Nichter, MD, MS, FACS
Orange County Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 157 reviews

Recovery After Traveling Abroad for Plastic Surgery

Thank you very much for your question. It is wise for you to think through your post-op recovery period before traveling abroad for plastic surgery. An array of questions, concerns, and complications can arise after any surgical procedure, no matter where you have it done. Unfortunately, having a procedure out of the country can put you in a dangerous position, without assistance should problems arise. For this reason, I recommend you schedule a consultation with a reputable, board certified plastic surgeon close to you, to further discuss your surgical plans. He/she can give you meaningful advice on the best treatment options for your desired results. The surgeon can also go over the various payment and financing options available, as well, which may help make your procedure more economical and efficient here in the United States. 

Paul Vitenas, Jr., MD
Houston Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 109 reviews

International travel for surgery

Forgive me for being blunt. This is a dumb idea! While there are many great and innovative surgeons in other countries and other states it is generally not a good idea to travel for surgery, unless you have a particular problem the requires special talents and expertise or have the ability to return in the event of a problem.

Few doctors want to take on other doctors "problems" the liability is too high and compensation too low. Realize that generally half of the surgeon fee is devoted to after care costs not profit to the business. 

Better for you to seek a local surgeon. There are many that can help you in your area.

Mark Eberbach, MD
Tampa Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 58 reviews


Thank you for your question. You can contact a surgeon in your area an ask him/her to help you with aftercare. Most likely they will charge you a minimal fee. Sometimes you can ask your  DR surgeon to see if the have a US colleague that he/she might refer you to. Best of luck

Derby Sang Caputo, MD
Dominican Republic Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 84 reviews

Surgical tourism - not always good

Due to liability concerns, very few doctors are willing to take on a patient from elsewhere with complications.  Certainly, there could be significant extra expense not covered by insurance to you, if this happens.

You have excellent plastic surgeons in the Seattle area.  I would recommend using one of them.

Just google "Dominican Republic Plastic Surgery gone wrong" for yourself - and read the horror stories.

Thomas Fiala, MD
Orlando Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 80 reviews

The risks of traveling abroad for plastic surgery

The best thing about having surgery with your local board certified plastic the ability of the surgeon to know all about your surgery and take good care of you. Some of my patients have researched this and found that it is really not less expensive to have surgery done in another country, when you consider the surgery, travel, hotel or hospital. If you have an infection, DVT, bleed or other major complication, it would be nice not to be on a plane and to have your care available locally.  Good luck and be careful with your decision.

Elisa A. Burgess, MD
Portland Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 50 reviews


Thank you for the question and hopefully any board certified plastic surgeon here would care for you but why risk traveling for surgery out of the country when there are excellent surgeons here that would treat you within your budget

Dr Corbin

Frederic H. Corbin, MD
Los Angeles Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 61 reviews

Is there a way to ensure that if you travel abroad for plastic surgery that you can still get care after returning?

Good luck. Patients who travel abroad for their surgery are taking a significant risk. I personally have seen patients who have had cosmetic surgery abroad who have suffered complications and cannot afford to travel back to see their surgeon, and have even had trouble getting their surgeon to speak with them on the phone. They may have a great deal of trouble finding a plastic surgeon in the U.S. who is willing to take over their care and treat another surgeon's complications. Not to mention the fact that many complications and poor results are simply not correctable, and even if they are your out of pocket expense may be much higher than if you had the surgery in the U.S. to begin with. I would be very surprised if you could find a U.S. plastic surgeon willing to commit themselves to be responsible for your post-operative care and treatment of possible complications prior to you traveling abroad for your surgery.

Robert M. Grenley, MD
Seattle Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 87 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.