5 Questions You Need To Ask Before Getting Cosmetic Surgery Abroad
Wherever you are in the world when you go under the knife, the process can be a scary one. However, medical tourism is literally booming. According to the Medical Tourism Association, an estimated 14 million of us around the world travel to different countries for medical care. And with that comes risks.
In the last few years, we’ve heard of countless horror stories – from long-term side effects to botched procedures and even death – regarding Brits travelling to countries including Hungary, Colombia, and Turkey for cosmetic surgery. Just last month a “series of complications” on the operation table led to a British woman dying in Majorca after she travelled there for an operation.
What the experts think
“I frequently have patients come to see me who need corrective surgery after travelling abroad,” Dr. Paul Banwell, a cosmetic and plastic surgeon, says. “Cheaper can sometimes prove far more expensive.”
He explains that, although there are a number of “first-class” surgeons abroad, getting surgery abroad comes with its downsides.
“It’s about the recovery period, which is far more comfortable at home, where follow-up appointments can be made. Complications can occur with any surgery… If you are abroad, they cannot be managed properly.”
“In the UK, there will be before and after appointments a lot of follow-up.”
Warning against procedures involving liposuction, especially the Brazilian Butt Lift (complications from which killed 31-year-old Brit Melissa Kerr in Turkey last year), Dr. Banwell says that it can prove harder to research surgeons’ qualifications and experience when they’re based abroad.
Like Dr. Banwell, plastic surgeon Naveen Cavale has seen first-hand the complications from botched surgery abroad.
“We have multiple cases a week where people have had cheap surgery abroad, but then complications have arisen once they’re back. As a result, people then often want to get more surgery to get the aesthetic result they want, which ends up costing them more money than if they’d have just gone to a reputable surgeon in the UK to begin with,” he says.
“This issue is only going to get worse as more people become sucked into the deals/offers that are offered by the lucrative medical tourism market,” he says.
Despite the risks mentioned above, there will always be a number of people who take them and decide to travel for surgery. That’s why it’s important to raise awareness of what exactly we need to avoid, and whether there are any red flags we should be looking out for. To help, Cavale has compiled a list of criteria for anyone going under the knife abroad.
Ask how frequently the surgeon performs the procedure you’re after
“They should be performing it regularly and have many years of experience.”
Check the surgeon – and the clinic – are qualified in the country they operate in
“They should be the equivalent of being board certified (US)/be on the GMC specialist register (UK)” Cavale says. “Check to see if they are a member of associations that have a high level of standards e.g. ISAPS, BAAPPS, BAPRAS. In the UK we have Care Quality Commission (CQC) regulated clinics. Is the facility where you will be having your operation the equivalent of CQC-certified?”
Think about what they’re offering you
“Have they offered you an adequate cooling-off period? Be wary of those pressuring you to book in immediately after a consultation,” Cavale warns. “Also, be very wary of offers and deals.”
Make sure the right procedures are in place around complications – and ask questions about them
Cavale says patients need to have themselves clued up when it comes to complication procedures. “What are the arrangements if there is a complication? Do they have facilities to take you back into the operating theatre to correct things, even in the middle of the night?” he says.
“Are they properly insured for complications? And does that insurance cover them internationally? Often it doesn’t.”
“All the NHS will offer is the removal of the implant – you may find revision surgery costs a lot more. If they are expecting the NHS to pick up any pieces, that’s a big red flag.”