Is Your Medical Vacation Safe?
Patient Safety It’s no secret that many Americans travel outside the country for various cosmetic surgeries and medical procedures, but that popularity doesn’t always ensure that those procedures are safe.
Lynn Jeffers, M.D., a board-certified plastic surgeon in Southern California, says she can understand that the price for a medical procedure outside of the United States can be an attractive draw for some, but she says people may not realize the seriousness of those procedures. “These are real surgeries, and you don’t plan a vacation around a real surgery,” Jeffers says. “You should scrutinize any surgery you have done outside the United States as much as you do here.”
Still, even a thorough pre-surgery vetting may be difficult. “You should be searching for accredited doctors and accredited facilities, of course, but what does that mean somewhere other than the U.S.?” Jeffers says. “Even in the U.S., patients can be confused about what constitutes appropriate credentials for plastic surgeons and facilities. For the patient going outside the U.S., it will require even more research to understand the appropriate credentials for each country.”
"A second plastic surgery to correct mistakes from the first can be difficult and expensive, so it’s important to get it right the first time."
Jeffers says, just as it is in the U.S., a second plastic surgery to correct mistakes from the first can be difficult and expensive, so it’s important to get it right the first time. While there’s always the possibility of surgical complications, Jeffers says patients should know how doctors will deal with post-surgery issues before undergoing any procedure.
“When people come in to see me for an operation, we discuss expectations for the period before, during, and after the surgery,” Jeffers says.
Patients shouldn’t minimize the importance of proximity to their doctors either. “Even if you have a simple question, your doctor might say, ‘Just come in and let me take a look at you,’” Jeffers says. “You can’t do that when your doctor is in another country—so what is the plan to handle these issues and questions?”
For Jeffers, it comes down to consumer awareness. “It’s the old cliche: If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” she says. “Plastic surgery is real surgery, so do your homework—you deserve it."